What Gets Me (And Publishing) Excited

I could spend today talking about all of the amazing, wonderful things I learned about publishing at BEA this week, but the truth is, Janet Reid is doing a far better job of saying everything I would say on her own blog (here!).

This was my second year going to BEA. A year ago, I did not have a blog or Twitter account, and I didn’t really know many other people in the industry. While my biggest fear in life is still “networking,” I think I was in better shape this year. That said, this year’s BEA, like last year’s, remained what I wanted it to be for me: the literary equivalent of Supermarket Sweep. 
Books I didn’t even care to read were thrown into my tote bags, and some of them I don’t even remember picking up. It was amazing. Of course, some books got me more excited than others. “Buzzworthy Books,” if you will. So here are my Top 5 books that not only am I personally excited about, but the publishing industry is excited about too.

1) The Passage by Justin Cronin. Good lord were they hyping this book! Sadly, I was not able to get a copy because I’m fairly certain they ran out within ten seconds. It’s yet another vampire book, but it’s one that reminds us that vampires do not, nor should they ever, sparkle. Post-apocalyptic, gritty, and destined to be a bestseller! In fact, I think it is already.

2) Room by Emma Donoghue. I’m very excited to read this book. Told from the perspective of five-year-old, Jack, Room is about being forced to live in captivity, and thinking of it as home. Of course, to Jack’s mom, it’s a prison from which she thinks she cannot ever escape. But more than that, it’s about the bond between a mother and son. I hope it’s not too premature to say that I think this book might do for mothers and sons what The Road did for fathers and sons.

3) The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale. An absurdest “memoir” of an evolved chimpanzee named Bruno who falls in love, and shares a detailed intimate moment, with his human caretaker, Lydia. That should pretty much explain it all.

4) The D.U.F.F. by Kody Keplinger. You can accuse me of being biased, since Kody is a friend of the blog, but I am definitely not the only one excited about this book. It was a featured title on the “Buzzworthy YA” panel and her editor’s praise could not have been any higher or more genuine. The D.U.F.F. is about Bianca, the “Designated Ugly Fat Friend,” who begins a relationship with the hot and popular, Wesley. It’s realistic fiction that might be so real it’s raw, which I think is something sorely missing in YA lately. 

5) Matched by Allie Condie. This is another title I, unfortunately, could not snag at BEA, but I look forward to buying it. It was described in a way that reminded me of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishigur. That is, a seemingly Utopian world that turns out to be anything but. In Matched, teenage Cassia looks forward to getting matched to her “perfect guy,” only to have her Matching Ceremony act as the catalyst in discovering her world is not what it appears to be. 

What’s exciting to me about each of these titles deals is that they deal more with human nature than they do with plot. Yes, The Passage will rely heavily on events and action, but like with any dystopian novel, what will make it interesting is how the characters struggle to survive. To me, this only proves that publishing is not a lost cause. At its heart, it still wants, needs, and gets excited about stories. Throw a vampire in there. Add a world-turned-upside-down. Or maybe just set it in a high school, letting the natural drama surrounding that world project your characters forward. In any case, remember it’s the story that matters, not the gimmick.

Getting to Know: Kody Keplinger

Eighteen-year-old writer Kody Keplinger is agented and soon-to-be-published. But, more on that later because clearly the most amazing, wonderful, and awesome thing about Kody is that not only does she currently attend my Alma mater, Ithaca College, but she is about to dwell in the very suite I lived in my sophomore year! Obviously this coincidence trumps anything she’s done or will do in her career…

OK yes, Kody and I have had fun reminiscing about IC, but let’s get back to what really makes Kody worth knowing about. She is represented by Joanna Stampfel-Volpe of Nancy Coffey Literary and Media Representation. “The funny thing is, I’d actually never heard of her when I queried her. I found her name on a writer friend’s query spreadsheet and I knew she repped YA, but that was it,” Kody says. Joanna was her first and only full request, which happened on May 12, 2009 (“One of the best days of my life!”), so Kody did further research and learned that apparently Joanna was known for being “awesome,” or, as Kody’s all-caps response put it, “She is AMAZING.”

The full manuscript request she’s referring to was for THE DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), which she wrote for any girl who has ever felt like she is the odd friend out, the girls who never feel pretty enough, or who lack confidence in themselves. “I think every girl can relate. I want those girls to read it and put it down knowing that they aren’t alone,” Kody says.

It’s no surprise that Kody’s writing mentors are all strong, barrier-breaking women: namely Jane Austen, J.K. Rowling, and S.E. Hinton. “Each of them has done something I admire greatly. Austen broke the mold. Rowling never gave up. Hinton didn’t let her age hold her back.  They’re all my heroes.” In real life, Kody names Buffa Hanse, the woman who taught her Braille, as her biggest inspiration. “She’s the one who convinced me to pursue writing in college and she never held anything back. I would not be here without Buffa, and I”m sure of that.”

Kody began the querying process when she was 17. It was for a novel she wrote before THE DUFF and she admits she “queried it badly.” When she decided to try again with THE DUFF, she did her research and lo and behold, Joanna happened! Right now she is working on another book for Fall 2011, and is planning a summer internship in publishing. “I’m fascninated by the agenting side in particular. And what better combination than agent/author? It’s my dream career!!!”
Whereas most 22-year-olds rarely have even one book to show for themselves, Kody hopes to have “a nice set of published books under my belt” by the time she graduates from college. THE DUFF (Little Brown/Poppy) will be available for you to buy/read/worship this September.