Friday, December 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

JVNLA rides the subway 2013!

Last year for the holidays, JVNLA took to the subway to express our love for our books published in 2012.  We snapped candid shots (and some not so candid shots) of ourselves reading as subway passengers looked on with puzzled expressions. For 2013, we simply had to do it again!

We began by posting pictures of us "reading in the wild" on Twitter--including pictures of us reading on subway platforms, at our desks, in bed, etc.--with the hashtag #readersinthewild. Then we followed it up with our adventure reading in the wilds of the subway!

Below, we present this year's candid and not-so-candid shots for your viewing pleasure.

We started at Times Square.  Here, Tara, Jennifer, and Laura read Love with a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche (Hyperion, May 2013). This and all other photos were taken by our excellent behind-the-scenes photographer, Ariana.

Below is a sampling of the 2013 books we brought along.  When we began piling more books onto the subway seats, a mini-avalanche started!

Alice joined Laura and Jennifer to read The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon (Sourcebooks Landmark, September 2013).

The day we chose for subway riding was particularly snowy, and so Jean decided to stay home and read in the warm rather than in the wild!  Here she is reading Our Picnics in the Sun by Morag Joss (Delacorte Press, November 2013).

Certain books inspire certain poses, and so Laura, Tara, and Jennifer couldn't help themselves from looking particularly nefarious while reading the noir mystery Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio (Seventh Street Books, July 2013).

We also couldn't help but crack ourselves up while reading the very funny The Heartbreak Messenger by Alexander Vance (Feiwel and Friends, July 2013).

When the below subway rider saw Royal Mistress by Anne Easter Smith (Touchstone, May 2013), she got so excited she had to read it herself! 

Then, she instructed Laura, Tara, and Jennifer how to properly pose for a scandalous historical novel like this one.

Noticing that some of our books had a certain theme to them, we decided to create our own story: First, there's Love with a Chance of Drowning.  Next comes The Heartbreak Messenger.  Which leads to This Is How You Say Goodbye.

While those of us in New York were in the midst of our subway adventures, Elizabeth was in Wisconsin having her own reading in the wild/transportation adventures! Here she is on bike with Sugar Pop Moon, 101 Quizzes for Couples by Natasha Burton (Adams Media, November 2013), Dead Run by Dan Schultz (St. Martin's Press, March 2013), Beyond the Bear by Dan Bigley and Debra McKinney (Lyons Press, March 2013), and more!

Laura, Jennifer, and Alice displayed their favorite parts of Otis Dooda: Strange but True, written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by David Heatley (Feiwel and Friends, June 2013).

Two businessman on their way to lunch were super excited about Otis Dooda too!

As you can see below, Laura, Tara, and Jennifer were each intrigued by Women, Sex, Power, and Pleasure by Evelyn Resh (Hay House, March 2013).

The delicious pie recipes in Sweetie-Licious Pies by Linda Hundt (Skirt! Books, October 2013) got Laura's and Tara's attention.

When the train emptied out, Jennifer had fun reading The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb (Hyperion, February 2013).

When it was time for our subway adventure to end, Laura, Tara, and Jennifer got a little choked up reading the last book, This Is How You Say Goodbye from Victoria Loustalot (St. Martin's Press, September 2013).

Thanks for joining us on our subway adventure!

For more about our recent books, take a look through the Recent and Upcoming Titles section of our website--all of the books make for great holiday gifts!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

OUR PICNICS IN THE SUN is "a psychological dazzler," "a stunner," "transcendent"

Award-winning mystery author Morag Joss's latest, Our Picnics in the Sun, came out from Delacorte Press/Random House a few weeks ago. Already it's been receiving simply stellar reviews!

Entertainment Weekly called Our Picnics in the Sun a “psychological dazzler” and named it to their “Must Read” list.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently featured the book in a glowing review. The below excerpt gives you a taste of the book, as well as a sense of how stunning it is:

Told in multiple voices, Joss' novel is a stunner. It's crime fiction the way Kate Atkinson is crime fiction — a novel cleverly plotted around a single event that reaches out across the story in mysterious and menacing ways. Set in an isolated farm in the English moors, Picnics in the Sun examines the lives of Howard and Deborah after Howard has had a debilitating stroke. Their marriage is in decay; their lives, like their farmhouse, are crumbling. The plot becomes increasingly suspenseful as a festering event in their past infects their present and a stranger inserts himself cruelly into their lives.

Don't miss the full review here.

NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan featured Our Picnics in the Sun on Fresh Air. She said, “In addition to her uncanny powers of storytelling, Joss can capture a world in the space of a few charged words.”

You can listen to the full review below, in which Joss's book is paired up with some other recent reads that came out around the time of that one-in-every-78,000-years holiday, Thanksgivukkah.

Last but certainly not least, WBUR, Boston's NPR news station, featured Joss and Our Picnics in the Sun in its arts column, The Artery. Other books praised in the same article were Ruth Rendell's No Man's Nightingale and Jayne Anne Phillips's Quiet Dell.

In the article, critic Ed Siegel calls Rendell “the greatest living mystery writer,” but he argues that Joss's work is just as good. “Like Rendell,” he writes, “she's more interested in the psychological framing of her characters than in creating and then solving crimes. [Alice] Munro and William Trevor are more her literary heroes than Agatha Christie or P.D. James.”

Here's an excerpt of some of his other praise:

Our Picnics in the Sun is [Joss's] gutsiest book yet as there seemingly isn’t a likable character in it...Yet it turns out to be every bit as much of a pageturner, and a search for grace, as Quiet Dell. Much of that is due to Joss’s artful writing — the psychological depth of her characters, the description of the English countryside and the trust that one has in her, given the richness of her previous books...I’ve been re-reading parts of the book and I’m agape at what Joss pulls off here. These are two books [Our Picnics in the Sun and Quiet Dell] that not only transcend their genres, they’re just plain transcendent.

You can find the full review in The Artery here.

Clearly, this suspenseful, gripping read isn't one to miss!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

44 NaNoWriMo tips and tricks from 24 expert authors

National Novel Writing Month is that crazy time of year when writers drive themselves mad gunning for 50,000 words, a completed novel, and the glorious pride of writerly achievement, all by the end of November. Of course, it's also that time of year when agents become increasingly wary, concerned they'll receive NaNoWriMo manuscripts immediately on December 1...

After doling out revision tips last year, this year we wanted our JVNLA authors to weigh in with their own NaNoWriMo writing advice—whether it be related to revision, persistence, encouragement, or the craft of writing.

We didn't ask our authors to send advice in just any old, boring way, though. Instead, we took to Twitter!

Last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, our authors flooded a portion of the Twitter-verse with #JVNLAauthors and #NaNoWriMo hashtags. They were responding to this tweet:

We've compiled the 44 tips and tricks they sent in below, with each tweet on its own line under the author's name.

Our expert authors write a variety of genres for a variety of ages, but their advice is perfect for anyone. Take a look!

From Victoria Strauss, author of Passion Blue (Skyscape, November 2012) @victoriastrauss

You're challenging yourself, not competing against others

Take breaks. Go for a walk. Savor a cup of tea. Take a hot shower. Creativity blooms when you let your mind wander.

From Morag Joss, author of Our Picnics in the Sun (Delacorte Press, November 2013) @moragjoss

Keep going to the end of #NaNoWriMo and be proud. Then re-write. And re-write.

From Selena Coppock, author of The New Rules for Blondes (It Books, April 2013) @SelenaCoppock

My advice 4 writers doing #NaNoWriMo? Straight-up disconnect the internet from your computer. And write to Arcade Fire :)

Courtesy of via

From Anne Mazer, author of Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook (Square Fish Books, March 2010) @Annemazer

Listen deeply to your characters.

Don't be afraid to make mistakes - you can always fix them later.

From Adrienne Kress, author of Outcast (Diversion Books, May 2013) and The Friday Society (Dial, December 2012) @AdrienneKress

Hmm, I'd advise authors doing #NaNoWriMo to not be too self critical. This is the vomit on the page stage, just get it written!

From Jillian Cantor, author of Margot (Riverhead, September 2013) @JillianCantor

Set small page/word goal per day and stick to it no matter what. I do 5 pgs/day

From Victoria Loustalot, author of This Is How You Say Goodbye (St. Martin's Press, September 2013) @VLoustalot

No outlines! Too much planning suffocates the chance for magic.

From Kristi Helvig, author of Burn Out (Egmont, April 2014) @KristiHelvig

Just get the first draft down no matter's supposed to be a hot mess!

Just remember not to submit that hot mess on Dec. 1. Take your time with edits!

Regarding this, Jeffry Halverson, author of Searching for a King: Muslim Nonviolence and the Future of Islam (Potomac Books, September 2012) (@JeffryHalverson), asked...

Other authors chimed in with answers:

From Susan Schoenberger, author of A Watershed Year (Lake Union, November 2013) @schoenwriter

I second @KristiHelvig Get it all down, and then make December #NaDeEdMo

Except it should probably be NaNoEdMo, now that I think about it.

From Mark Ferguson, author of The Lost Boys Symphony (Little, Brown, forthcoming Summer 2015) @thefergusonian

I say write forward. Don't edit what's already written. Doubt will slow you down.

Obviously you'll edit later, to be clear. That's why we call Dec-Oct #NaNoEdMo

To this, Selena Coppock (see her advice above) responded...

From M.D. Waters, author of Archetype (Dutton, February 2014) @_MDWaters

Fun Fact: #ARCHETYPE was my 2011 #NaNoWriMo novel. Finished in 5 weeks. Queried: May 2012 Agented: Oct 2012 SOLD: Dec 2012 #TakeYourTime

Use December to EDIT rather than QUERY.

Every scene needs a goal, motivation, and conflict... How else are you going to keep them entertained?

Your goal has motivation, but does it have CONFLICT?

Scene isn't working? Move characters to a new setting.

It takes more words to show a scene, fewer to tell it.

Pinterest is NOT your WIP. Neither is this, so stop reading
(But, really, keep reading this post and THEN get back to work :) )

Lose your muse? Steal someone else's. It's fair game.

Your antag has a story. I bet they even have good intentions.

That emotion you want to share? Amplify by 10 and write THAT.

Dishes? What dishes? That's what minions are for. WRITE


From Robert Repino, author of Mort(e) (Soho Press, forthcoming Fall 2014) @Repino1

This year trade football and Friday morning shopping for writing.

From Ellen Potter, author of Otis Dooda: Strange but True (Feiwel and Friends, June 2013) and Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook (Square Fish Books, March 2010) @Ellenpotter

When you get stuck, take your dog for a walk. Seriously, it works wonders.

Pledge that if u don't finish the novel you'll give $ to least fave organization

From Ellis Avery, author of The Last Nude (Riverhead, December 2012) and Broken Rooms: Haiku and Sculpture (The Crumpled Press, February 2014) @EllisAveryNYC

Let your characters want something. What do I mean?

Here's an excerpt from that Wall Street Journal article, written by Avery:

Many of us have read subtle, well-wrought stories in which a character's most secret soul is illuminated—and yet (yawn) nothing really happens. The writer tried too hard to Make the Reader Care. There are also pyrotechnically masterful stories in which cars explode and the world ends—and yet (ho-hum) nobody cares. The writer tried too hard to Make Something Happen. To avoid both problems, I've found it helpful to ask three questions: What does my character want? What keeps my character from getting what he or she wants? Does my character get what he or she wants in the end or not?

From Wendy Webb, author of The Vanishing (Hyperion, January 2014) and The Fate of Mercy Alban (Hyperion, February 2013) @wendykwebb

Write each day, very early or late, as your household sleeps. No distractions.

Also: Set a goal for number of words, and stick to it.

Also: No social media or email until you reach your word count goal.

From Timothy Schaffert, author of The Swan Gondola (Riverhead, February 2014) and The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books, April 2011) @timschaffert

If a scene's not working, move characters onto a different set; one that's unexpected: rooftop, bottom of an empty pool.

Or the bottom of a...full pool.

Courtesy of via

From Susan Kelly, author of By Accident (Pegasus Books, May 2010) @susankellynovel

Go ahead and get up in the middle of the night to change "turn" to "pivot" and remove the exclamation marks.

From Alex C. Renwick (aka Camille Alexa), author of Push of the Sky (Untreed Reads, October 2012) @AlexCRenwick

Don't overthink it...At least, not until AFTER you have a draft.

From Dorothy Hearst, author of Secrets of the Wolves (Simon and Schuster, July 2012) @DorothyHearst

Make character influence action, and action change your characters

From J-Wunder, author of Wait...What?!: Life Advice from a Ghetto Genius (Diversion Books, July 2013) @MrJWunderful

drink until you feel the creative juices flow!

From Nancy Springer, author of Drawn into Darkness (NAL, November 2013) @NancySpringer

Talking about your novel-to-be depletes the energy you need to write it. Don't blow it away w your mouth. Write it.

"Show, don't tell" = the reader visualizes everything you say. So be careful. Eyes fall (onto the floor?), roll...

Most likely yr critique group will focus on the surface of yr novel. Dig deeper. Think structure, story logic.

Find out the goofy way I got started writing in my new Goodreads post:

From Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point (Harper Perennial, May 2014) and The Liar's Diary (Dutton, 2007) @patryf

"Don't confine truth to facts." 5 Writing Tips: Paul Harding… via @PublishersWkly

From Helen Maryles Shankman, author of The Color of Light (Stony Creek Press, October 2013) @hmshankman

What you write when you're inspired--and what you write when you're not inspired--by the time you're done editing... won't know which was which. Just keep writing!

Courtesy of via

Friday, November 22, 2013


In Victoria Loustalot's recent interview on WNYC's The Leonard Lopate Show, she describes herself as part of an “in-between generation,” one that bore witness to the transformation of AIDS from death sentence to survivable disease.

Loustalot is the author of This Is How You Say Goodbye, released by St. Martin's Press this fall. Subtitled “A Daughter's Memoir,” the book is an exploration of Loustalot's relationship with her father, his experience with AIDS, his eventual suicide in the face of deteriorating health, and Loustalot's attempt—years later—to fulfill his promise to her of a trip around the world.

Part of what makes this memoir so “heart-wrenching” (Booklist), “bittersweet” (Kirkus), and “probing” (Publishers Weekly) can likely be traced to Loustalot's membership in this “in-between generation.” Her father was among the last group of people who contracted HIV for whom effective treatment did not yet exist. Only after his death did living with AIDS become a possibility.

In her interview, Loustalot explains how difficult it was to be “in-between” and consequently witness both sides of the AIDS crisis:

I spent the first half of my childhood seeing what the AIDS of dying looked like up close and personal, and then the second half of my childhood, after my father's death, seeing this whole new vision and life of what AIDS and HIV could mean for somebody. And so to have one foot in each, and reconciling myself with that and growing up with that duality....I is the moment for people to be talking about this. Because it wasn't that long ago, and I think we've forgotten what it looked like.

You can listen to Loustalot's full interview below:

December 1 is World AIDS Day. Events surrounding the day have already begun and will continue through the beginning of December. According to, World AIDS Day has been held since 1988 as “an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.”

World AIDS Day. December 1.

In commemorating her father's experience with AIDS and chronicling her own journey to come to terms with his death, Loustalot's memoir does exactly what World AIDS Day sets out to do in its mission. If, as Loustalot says, now is the time to start talking about how AIDS has affected our generation, there is no better way to begin the conversation than with This Is How You Say Goodbye.
Below are some of the excellent reviews This Is How You Say Goodbye has received since its release:

“Eloquent...Gently probing, reflective...Loustalot’s careful, deliberative prose delineates a young woman’s arduous passage to self-realization.” --Publishers Weekly

“Moving...By turns sweet...and heart-wrenching...Loustalot writes with courage and candor about bidding her beloved father a final farewell.” --Booklist

Compelling reading. An intimate portrait of a bittersweet father-daughter relationship.” --Kirkus

"Moves between past and present and is told in frank, detailed narrative marked by irony, heartache and some humor." --Sacramento Bee

A remarkable accomplishment. A riveting narrative that lays bare how important it is to come to terms with the past, this honest and heartrending memoir is for everybody who has ever tried to find his or her place in their family and in the world.” --Julie Klam, New York Times bestselling author of You Had Me at Woof and Friendkeeping

"Loustalot's memoir will resonate with anyone who has ever tried to resolve the complexities of an enigmatic parent, or plumb what lies at the heart of the filial bond. Her uncommon intelligence, wit, and compassion shine through in this beautifully realized memoir...A beguiling writer...a smashing debut." --Alexandra Styron, bestselling author of Reading My Father

Lyrical, thoughtful, often humorous prose...What Loustalot has written is a love story—a moving, aching love story to the father she never knew. It will resonate for all who have loved and lost, and who wish to heal.” --Kerry Cohen, bestselling author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity

St. Martin's Press, September 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pie Perfection: Adventures in baking with the perfect cookbook for the holiday season

Of the many milestones in a book’s publication, my favorite is opening the delivery box and picking up a finished copy of my client’s book for the first time. I recently opened the delivery box to find Linda Hundt’s charming retro cookbook, Sweetie-licious Pies, published last month by Skirt! Books.

Sweetie-licious Pies is the first cookbook I’ve represented, and I couldn’t wait to see how the photographs, text and recipes had come together. The final product exceeded my expectations--I am so proud of this beautiful package!

Featuring fifty-two original recipes, accompanied by gorgeous photos of Linda’s farm in Michigan and mouth-watering images of the pies themselves, Sweetie-licious Pies is the most heavily designed book I’ve worked with yet. I spent a solid hour pouring over the images and re-reading the heart-warming stories behind the creation of each pie. I was so inspired that by the time I set the book down, I vowed to do something I’d never attempted before--bake.

I do not exaggerate when I tell you I don’t have a sweet tooth. In the epic battle of sweet vs. savory, savory always wins in my book. As a kid, I’d turn over my Halloween candy to my brother and sister with a nonchalant shrug and watch them fight over the spoils. To this day, I’ll take a bag of potato chips over chocolate every time. All of which might make you wonder--why does someone who doesn’t like dessert have a pie cookbook on her list? I’ll tell you--it’s all about the crust. I love pie crust. It’s the perfect savory balance to a sugary dessert, the salty yin to fruit’s sweet yang. On a restaurant menu, pie is the one dessert that tempts me, but I’d never tried to bake my own--until the other Sunday.

With sixteen-time national pie-baking champion Linda Hundt’s beautiful cookbook to guide me, I figured I had a good shot at success. I enlisted the help of my in-house photographer/husband to document my baking adventure.

Here’s a little photo show of how it all went down:

To take advantage of the autumn’s delicious apples, I decided to make “Mom Hundt’s Apple Almond Pie” (p88). I lined up all my ingredients and set to work.

This pie calls for a homemade cream cheese crust. Following Linda’s easy recipe (p2), I used my standing mixer for the first time ever and later shaped the dough into a disk to cool in the fridge.

After the dough cooled in the fridge, I rolled it out and carefully placed it over the pie pan. Then into the freezer it went! Linda always recommends working with a frozen crust.

Next step was preparing the apple almond filling. The smells of cinnamon-apple goodness coming from this pot were incredible! After I assembled the pie and popped it in the oven, my trusty sidekick Finn helped me by licking some of the measuring utensils clean.

Voila--Mom Hundt’s Apple Almond Pie!

Baking this pie was a blast, but the final result didn’t last long. Between a little slice here and a tiny bite there, we polished off the pie in just a few days. Luckily, we had extra apples from our trip to the farmer’s market and most of the ingredients needed to bake another.

Behold Round Two: Grandma Ferrell’s Caramel Apple pie (p146)!

Apparently I’m not the only one who’s had apple pies on the brain. Food and Wine Magazine just named Linda’s “Laura’s Sticky Toffee Pudding Caramel Apple Pie” as one of America’s Best Apple Pies. Check out the mouth-watering slide show in which Linda’s pie has top billing here.

Midwest Living also recently featured Linda and Sweetie-licious Pies. The cookbook is featured as a Midwest favorite in the magazine's Holiday Gift Guide.

So this holiday season, whether you're planning what to give for holiday gifts or what to make for holiday dessert, look no further than Sweetie-licious Pies!

Below are some of the great things people have been saying about Sweetie-licious Pies:

“Linda Hundt brings you the sweetness of pie and blends it with tradition, family, nostalgia, and fabulous recipes into one thoroughly all-American pie cookbook.” --Debbie Macomber, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Starting Now and The Inn At Rose Harbor

“Linda Hundt is like the world's greatest pie librarian and Sweetie-licious is a colorful, approachable, pie-lover's dream. It's as if Linda collected the best possible pie recipes from the world's coolest grandmothers, vintage church supper cookbooks, and route 66 diners, then sprinkled them with her own unique and talented voodoo. Get ready to put this book in your 'most frequently used' part of your kitchen library.” --Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, authors of Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients

“With the glide of a rolling pin, Sweeti-Licious Pies transports you to Small Town America, where pies cool on the windowsill, there's a watering can in the garden, and everyone gathers for family dinner. Linda Hundt is truly changing the world, one pie at a time. Make mine a slice of The Farmette's Blueberry Basil Cream Pie!” --Judith Fertig, author of Heartland: The Cookbook

Friday, November 8, 2013

Two books at the forefront of the busy fall publishing season

Fall is the one of the busiest times of the year in the publishing world (if not the busiest time). It's not only when agents are busy submitting to editors who are busy buying books after the lull of the summer, it's also when publishing houses are busy publishing! Many publishers release their lead titles in the fall, and so the season is marked by numerous great reads hitting bookshelves—physical and virtual—for the first time.

Two JVNLA books that have been part of the fall publishing excitement are The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon and Margot by Jillian Cantor. Since their releases earlier this season, glowing reviews have been coming in so fast we've had a hard time keeping up with them!

Now, we're putting the spotlight on both books:

THE BOOK OF SOMEDAY BY DIANNE DIXON is, as one blogger put it, “a novel rich with compelling characters, each haunted by a past riddled with painful, life-altering mistakes” (Jenn's Bookshelves). The novel tells the story of three women whose lives are connected in mysterious ways. As these connections begin converging, each of their lives will change forever.

Dianne Dixon

Dixon credits a recurring nightmare she had as a child as the inspiration for The Book of Someday.  The nightmare was of “a beautiful woman in a silver gown opening her mouth to let out a scream [that Dixon] knew would be the sound of absolute horror.” Read more about how Dixon wove this nightmarish woman into her novel on her website here--and don't forget to check out the rest of the site!

The Book of Someday was Sourcebooks Landmark's lead title for the fall. Per a Publishers Weekly article about the imprint and its acquisition of Dixon's book, Landmark has been aggressively building its fiction list in recent years.  It has focused on women's fiction, writing that blends the literary with the commercial, and reads that make for fantastic book club selections. With The Book of Someday, Landmark knew it had found the perfect book for its fiction list, and hence it bought the novel (plus a second book) in a major pre-empt deal! Read the rest of the article here.

In another piece, Publishers Weekly highlighted Dixon's unique trajectory from Emmy-nominated screenwriter to novelist.  Novels have a particular advantage over screenplays for Dixon, as she explains in this excerpt:

When you write screenplays, says Dixon, you are creating a blueprint of a story others will execute. “Especially in animated television,” she adds, because she is not an animator. No matter how successful Dixon has been in Hollywood—where she never thought she’d end up—she says she feels most at home writing novels because she is creating the whole story herself.

Read more about Dixon's TV-to-books transition here.

Below are some of the extraordinary reviews we've received in for The Book of Someday:

“This haunting tale is an excellent piece of escapism that will put a pang in your heart and, sometimes, a chill in your bones.” --Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Compelling, emotionally driven...Reminiscent of Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Carol Cassella...Enchanting.” --Booklist

“Unusual, suspenseful.” --Library Journal

“A real page-turner.” --Kirkus

“The reader quickly becomes enmeshed.” --BookPage

“Dixon creates beautifully broken characters whose stories are as touching as they are invigorating...A stunning and heartbreaking story.” --San Francisco Book Review

MARGOT BY JILLIAN CANTOR, a lead fall fiction title from Riverhead, tells a unique “what if” story: What if Anne Frank's sister, Margot Frank, had survived? In Cantor's sensitive imagining of this possibility, Margot has escaped to America and is living as a secretary in 1950s Philadelphia. Yet when The Diary of Anne Frank comes to movie theaters, her past and present collide.

Jillian Cantor

Cantor chose to write about Margot Franklin in part because, as an older sister herself, Cantor identified quite a lot with Margot when she read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child.

An exclusive Time feature article and interview with Cantor explores more about Cantor's inspiration, her sensitive subject matter, and her writing process:

Was she worried about treading on what many readers consider sacred text? Only after the fact, it seems. "There’s been so much written about Anne over the years...." [Cantor] says. "...But really nothing has been written about Margot...So I felt like I wanted to tell her story and when I was writing, I didn’t think about anybody reading it. I didn't think about what other people would say. I just sort of thought 'well this is a story that I need to tell. And this'd be a book I would want to read.'"

Read the rest of the article here.

The New York Times Book Review and USA Today also featured Margot in write-ups. O Magazine did a piece on it, too, calling Margot “an ode to the adoration and competition between sisters who were once so close.” O Magazine's piece is below:

But Margot hasn't only caught the eyes of the press.  Each month Library Reads compiles the top ten books librarians across the country have loved most. Margot was one of their September picks.

Below are more of the fabulous reviews Margot has received since its publication:

“Cantor's re-imagining of Margot's life is believable and wistful...A heartbreakingly masterful corollary, ultimately commemorating the abbreviated life of this remarkable young woman.” --Shelf Awareness, starred review

“Daring...This story of sisterly rivalry, sacrifice, and love survives and thrives.” --Booklist

“I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Margot since I finished this book. Highly recommended.” --Historical Novel Society

Intriguing...Compelling sensitivity.” --USA Today

“A convincing, engaging might-have-been.” --People

Ingenious...Will have you smiling--and fighting off tears.” --Ladies Home Journal, October 2013 Book Club Pick

Magnetic characters and the book’s exploration of the complexities of identity and memory make Margot a compelling read.” --Jewish Book Council

“Cantor brings Margot to life with a beautifully raw sense of immediacy.” --Brooklyn Daily Eagle

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Raising awareness about something truly scary this Halloween: Bullying

Traditionally Halloween celebrates all things “scary”—like witches, goblins, and ghouls, oh my! But the month of October revolves around another matter that truly is scary: bullying.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. The month-long campaign, first conceived in 2006 by the PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights), is meant to raise awareness about bullying and address how to prevent it via events, activities, outreach, and education.

The PACER National Bullying Prevention Center puts the number of kids who experience bullying at nearly one in every three kids, or over 13 million students. According to a recent Publishers Weekly article on the topic, bullying incidents reported in the news in the past several months alone have led to school transfers, arrests, and teens contemplating—and at times carrying out—suicide.

Books about bullying can raise awareness about the issue in ways that few other outlets can. They show bullied kids that they are not alone, teach kids how to deal with bullying, and address how and when bullied kids should seek help. So it makes sense that books about bullying have exploded in recent years as kids, parents, and teachers have recognized the increasing importance—and scariness—of bullying.

In its bullying article, Publishers Weekly compiled a number of recent and upcoming books on bullying that kids and parents alike should seek out. Among these is the JVNLA middle grade memoir Gabe and Izzy: Standing Up for America's Bullied. The book is written by Gabrielle Ford with Sarah Thomson and is coming out from Puffin in March 2014.

Gabrielle Ford, or Gabe, has a rare genetic neuro-muscular disease. From a young age, the disease slurred her speech and made her walking unsteady—before it eventually put her in a wheelchair. In school, her classmates bullied her relentlessly for being different. As a result, Gabe grew depressed and she isolated herself from her community. But when Gabe's parents got her a dog, Izzy, Gabe's life changed forever. Izzy became her best friend when no one else would. And then, when Izzy developed a condition mysteriously similar to Gabe's, Gabe reentered her community to speak out so Izzy could get the best treatment available.

Gabe's memoir is an inspirational story (perfect for pet lovers, too) that gets right to the heart of how hard it is to overcome bullying and yet how important it is to speak out against it. Today, Gabe travels to schools and conferences across the country to speak about bullying prevention. Considered one of the original anti-bullying advocates, she and Izzy have been featured on Animal Planet's A Pet Story, and she has been named “Greatest Person of the Day” by The Huffington Post, among other accolades.

Several other JVNLA books from recent years also deal with issues of bullying.

Ellen Potter's Slob is a middle grade book like Gabe and Izzy, but it is fiction. The novel was published by Philomel in 2009 and was a selection of the Junior Library Guild.  

Slob relates the story of Owen, a boy who is bullied by his gym teacher and classmates for being the fattest kid in school. Though Owen is a science genius, there are some things he just can't understand, like how to stop others from humiliating him and who keeps stealing his Oreos. Owen must deal with these issues while also trying to unravel a mysterious family mystery.  

Kirkus Reviews called Slob “intriguingly offbeat...humorous, suspenseful, and poignant.”

Hershey Herself by Cecilia Galante is another middle grade novel dealing with bullying. It was released by Aladdin in 2008 and was called “touching, frank, and sincere” by The Compulsive Reader.

Hershey is bullied by her classmates for being overweight while her best friend Phoebe is bullied for dressing differently. Yet even as the story revolves around their school bullying conflicts, it also addresses how aspects of bullying can bleed into adulthood: In another central conflict, Hershey and her mother must run away to a women's shelter to escape her mother's abusive boyfriend.

The Summer of May is another middle-grade novel by Galante involving bullying, which Aladdin published in 2011. In this book, however, the main character is a bit of a bully herself.

May is going through a particularly tough time because she and her family have recently moved into a new, rundown neighborhood; her father works long hours and often gets into yelling arguments with her; and her grandmother is withdrawn and depressed, mourning the absence of May's mother. May detests her eighth-grade teacher, makes fun of her, and even goes so far as to graffiti her classroom with a mean insult. Her punishment is to attend summer school with the very teacher she has insulted. But when everything becomes too much for May, she turns on her best friend and goes too far in fighting with her father. May must confront her anger and its consequences if she wants to prevent her life from spiraling completely out of control.  

Publishers Weekly praised The Summer of May for “investigat[ing] the impact of loss and the importance of making amends” and said the novel was “brimming with emotion and insight into adolescent rage.”

Each of these books tells a phenomenal story in addition to teaching kids how they can deal with bullying head on. Though Halloween's arrival means October is ending—which also means National Bullying Prevention Month is coming to a close—these books are truly timeless reads. So pick up your copies whenever you have a chance, and dive in!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Words and color: Republished memoirs and art exhibition offer new opportunities to explore Anne Truitt's life and legacy

This month saw the re-release of Anne Truitt's memoir series, The Journey of an Artist!

Truitt, who was born in Baltimore, MD, in 1921 and passed away in 2004, became famous across the art world for her art that united shape and color to make statements about reality. Her art took the form of wooden constructions painted in subtle layers of color, fabricated in accordance with scale drawings.

During her lifetime, Truitt received fellowships from the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work continues to be showcased in major museums throughout the U.S.--including The National Gallery of Art, The Whitney Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art—as well as throughout the world.

The Matthew Marks Gallery in New York City is the exclusive dealer of Truitt's works. When the gallery planned a new Truitt exhibition for September and October 2013, we at JVNLA knew Truitt's memoir series needed to be put back into publication!

Daybook was Truitt's first memoir exploring her life as an artist. Originally published by Pantheon in 1982, it was followed by Turn (Viking 1986) and Prospect (Scribner 1996). In each, Anne used journal entries to take readers through her world as her relationships to her family and art evolved.

Among other widespread praise Truitt's memoirs received after their publication, Art in America called her writing “unflinching and at every moment, possessed of the inevitable dignity that attends a genuine commitment to telling the truth about oneself.”

Last year, Scribner bought rights to the previously out-of-print series, and they brought Audrey Niffenegger on board to write an introduction.

Daybook was released in print paperback this month, with the full three books in the series released as an e-book omnibus at the same time. Audible also re-released each book in audio, with Daybook and Turn narrated by Truitt herself and Prospect narrated by Alice Rosengard.

Print re-release
E-book omnibus re-release

Truitt's art--and her life--have influenced many.  Several years ago, PBS NewsHour's Art Beat did a video about her lasting influence in the art world. Check it out below!

In the video, Project Runway's Tim Gunn speaks about how Truitt was a huge role model for him—both due to her artwork and her way of living. Filmmaker Jem Cohen notes how Truitt, in her own words, attempted to find “a way to set color free in three dimensions.” And Hirshhorn Museum curator Kristen Hileman speaks about a Truitt exhibition that was going on at the museum at the time of this video's creation.

The Matthew Marks Gallery will continue exhibiting Truitt's work until October 26--so if you're in the New York area, be sure to visit!

JVNLA went to the exhibition opening last month. The event was a roaring success, with many in attendance and much to admire about Truitt's stunning work! Some photos are below--but there's nothing like seeing Truitt's art work in person if you have the opportunity.

Below is a brief sampling of the stand-out reviews Truitt's The Journey of an Artist series has received over time:

“The clear as a mountain stream, often quite beautiful. Her artist's eye sees the meaning--and she then finds feeling--in ordinary stuff...Prospect is one of those books that reveal what is at total risk of imperceptibility in one's life, lying there, waiting to be discovered.” --The New York Times Book Review

“Each phrase is neatly turned, each idea crafted...You'll find much to ponder here, much to treasure.” --The Washington Post

“Polished...Moving.” --Library Journal

“Truitt's outlook...makes her an optimistic, even exemplary guide through this territory [of old age] that awaits us all.” --The Los Angeles Times

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Adorable and charming: Trapani creates an exciting rendition of a classic

Last month, author-illustrator Iza Trapani's newest children's picture book, Little Miss Muffet, was released!

Many of you know the classic nursery rhyme, which goes,

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey.
Along came a spider
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Trapani's book takes this nursery rhyme, adds illustrations, and expands it to include many more antics with animals to create a new classic!  The animals get larger and larger along the way.

Her book trailer gives you a glimpse of her story additions, as well as a sense of her gorgeous illustrations:

Trapani was recently interviewed at Robyn Campbell's Blog about how she crafts her picture books. In response to how long it takes her to write them, she responded,

The writing varies. Sometimes I can conceive a story in a few hours.  I wrote a rough draft of The Itsy Bitsy Spider on an hour-and-a-half bus ride. Other  times it may take months or even years for an idea to germinate. But generally, once I have  a plot, I can write a story in a few days.

Trapani writes all her books in rhyme, and she noted this about the revision process:

Writing for children is much harder than most people think. Exult in your writing, but keep a critical eye. Do not get too attached to your words. This is especially true of rhyming verse, where rhythm and meter are critical. A clever or beautiful line is worthless if the meter is off.

Read about Trapani's illustrating process, too, as well as many other insights in the full interview here.

Below are some of the fantastic reviews that have come in so far for Little Miss Muffet:

Readers will barely be able to contain themselves when they spy the spider climbing up the tuffet leg. Indeed, Trapani slyly inserts clues as to what might next befall the hapless Miss Muffet in her brightly colored illustrations, which humorously capture both Miss Muffet's primness and her fright...A fun romp...Those with similar fears may feel empathy for Miss Muffet's plight; others will just giggle at the improbability of it all.” --Kirkus

“Rediscover this adored, classic nursery rhyme with delightfully charming illustrations by acclaimed author and illustrator Iza Trapani. Incorporating all the directional words kids need to learn early on in this silly story, Trapani creates a wonderful rendition of a perennial favorite that's sure to have kids hoping for the little miss to find a safe space from all those fearful creatures.” --New Age Mama Blog

“Adorable...Beautifully and richly rendered. And funny, too. Poor Miss Muffet’s face is animated and hilarious...Lively, descriptive words.” --Sing Books with Emily Blog

“A joy to read (and sing) aloud. [Trapani's] accompanying art is warm and inviting, a safe-haven for young children, full of comfort, perfect for bedtime or anytime...A must-have!” --Susanna Hill Blog

Sky Pony Press, September 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013

Boxing legends and a new noir hero featured in recent releases

John Florio and Ouisie Shapiro's nonfiction account of history's most famous boxing brothers came out this month to much acclaim from Lyons Press.

One Punch from the Promised Land: Leon Spinks, Michael Spinks, and the Myth of the Heavyweight Title centers around the divergent journeys of Leon and Michael Spinks as they grew up in the St. Louis ghetto, each became heavyweight champions, and then had to deal with fickle fame. The book features a celebrity cast of boxing legends, including Muhammad Ali (who Leon Spinks defeated), Mike Tyson (who Michael Spinks fought), Larry Holmes, Gerry Cooney, Dwight Qawi, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, and many more.

Check out the thrilling trailer below, which was Trailer of the Day on Shelf Awareness:

The book has been featured on several sports broadcasts this month. Florio was interviewed by Jeremy Schapp on ESPN's The Sporting Life (listen here), Jim Rome on CBS Sports Radio (listen here), and The Rock Newman Show (listen here).

Excerpts were also featured in a Sporting News exclusive. You can read them here.

The book has gotten fabulous reviews, including the below sampling:

“Revealing detail...An excellent read for boxing fans.” --Booklist

“A great introduction to the heavyweight division from the late 1960s to the early '80s...Just as much about America's racial and socioeconomic situation as it is an exploration of the dynamics of family and the history of the sweet science...Teaches a lesson.” --Publishers Weekly

Well written and deeply sourced, One Punch from the Promised Land fills in a lot of blanks.” --Bob Costas, a 22-time Emmy Award winner, NBC sportscaster and host of Costas Tonight

"It's a story that transcends boxing." --Jerry Izenberg, sports columnist for The Star-Ledger, four time Pulitzer Prize nominee for sports reporting, and author of Through My Eyes

“A vivid and compelling dual biography populated by the giants and demons of boxing's last golden age.” --Jeremy Schaap, ESPN reporter and New York Times bestselling author of Cinderella Man

John Florio has had quite the publishing season.  He also had a fiction crime novel, Sugar Pop Moon, released from Seventh Street Books in July. The novel tells the story of Jersey Leo, an albino of mixed race nicknamed “Snowball,” who bartends at a speakeasy in Prohibition-era Hell's Kitchen. Jersey gets embroiled in a great deal danger after inadvertently purchasing counterfeit moonshine for his boss.

Sugar Pop Moon was named to the “Best Mysteries and Thrillers” category on iTunes in July:

Florio gave an interview on The Big Thrill, in which he speaks to why he chose an albino character to be his novel's hero and how a prior stint as a music composer helped him write and structure Sugar Pop Moon. Read the full interview here.

The sequel to Sugar Pop Moon, Blind Moon Alley, will come out in 2014 from Seventh Street Press.

Below is a sampling of the excellent reviews for Sugar Pop Moon:

“Don’t miss this absolutely riveting, gritty debut coming-of-age tale. Absorbing and briskly paced.” --Library Journal, starred review

“This is a hard-boiled, Prohibition-era novel and Jersey Leo is a well-developed, engaging character. The story moves fast, the violence is appropriate to the times, and there are laugh-out-loud moments amid the mayhem. Sure to appeal to fans of Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and, more currently, Robert Fate’s edgy Baby Shark series." --Booklist

“The brisk story and its unusual hero pack a considerable punch.” --Publishers Weekly

“A fast-paced tale where you never know what’s coming next…One of those good, old prohibition-style mob stories that brings a tear to the eye and a laugh out loud …After this small taste, readers will definitely hope that the author produces more Jersey Leo stories.” --Suspense Magazine

“Crackling with Chandleresque crack-wise charm, a breakneck pace and wonderful characterizations, Sugar Pop Moon delivers the goods...Jersey is a wonderful character, in league with great ultra-outsiders like Beverle Graves Myers’ Tito Amato. Highly recommended.” --Historical Novel Society, Editors' Choice

Lyons Press, September 2013