Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Deal Breaker

No, today's story is not from the fictional self-help book written by Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. It is, however, an excerpt from a novel by Anne B. Henry, an MFA candidate at Wilkes University. She is also an editorial assistant with Etruscan Press.

The excerpt Anne is sharing with us is told from the point of view of an older woman who becomes invested in a story being told by a group of aging rockers sitting next to her at the beach. Enjoy!

Deal Breaker
By Anne B. Henry

A tissue hung from the corner of the mouth of the man with salt and pepper Brillo for hair, and he chewed on it with gusto. Behind my sunglasses, from beneath the next beach umbrella, I didn’t miss a trick. Hiding behind Pride and Prejudice pretending I was reading it (for the 10th time), I buried my arthritic feet deep in the hot sand. To Brillo-haired man I was just a little old woman who was probably hard of hearing, so what did it matter if the whole group of them clustered together over a huge red and white cooler, littering their sentences with obscenities. Hell, they were no spring chickens, either. From their conversations, I gathered that they were musician types, albeit not still glam, desired rock stars, with their balding heads, potbellies, and gray beards. Though it was 10 a.m., they popped open beer cans and emptied them into thermos bottles or large neon colored plastic cups with lids, on the sly, as if I didn’t see that! Hah! The guys told raunchy jokes or crazy band stories.

“Bart, tell them about the day you bought the Telecaster and the Fender amp,” urged the blonde-haired woman with the tattoos on her arms, as she butted a cigarette in a hill of sand that served as their ashtray. I think she belonged to Brillo head Bart with the tissue hanging from his mouth. The more they drank, the looser the language got.
Only the one redheaded woman looked in my direction and attempted to shush them. Brillo head plunged right into his tale, making a loud slurping sound before he spoke, and not bothering to remove the tissue.

 “In Papershop, a guy listed a 1957 Fender Telecaster and a black face Fender Showman amp, just like the one I had, maybe 20 years ago, but I sold it to Dick from the Rubber Rock Band, remember him?”

 Brillo head paused. Bart, Brillo head, made a living buying and selling stuff, mostly cars he fixed up and musical equipment of all sorts. He played lead guitar and sang in the band with these guys for 30 years and a smaller, less professional band for the last 10 years. I gathered this from my eavesdropping, though I didn’t catch any band names. Not that I’d recognize them anyway. Been a long time since I jitterbugged - in public, anyway.

 “Yeah, the guy who always wore a Panama hat and had braids down to his ass?” The tall round man stood and pulled up his purple trunks and lit a cigarette, exhaling as he asked.

“Yeah that one.” Bart said and they shared a few snickers about Dick’s wardrobe and sexual preferences. “Well, anyway, this guy had it for sale for 1200 bucks and it sounded too good to be true. So I called him up, Chuck was his name and he told me he had it at his place, way the hell out in no man’s land. Now, you know I don’t like driving far and this place was almost on my forgeddabout it list. But I needed to see it. I wanted that baby.” 

He slurped in air again and changed to a paper towel. The tissue was limp and damp; it held no appeal, I figured.

 “I tried to get him to drive it down to the city but he was stubborn. Here or nowhere, he said. And he sounded like he was gonna cry. So, I tell him okay, buddy, okay, I’ll come out tomorrow. I could hear the smile in his voice as he gave me directions that I scribbled down on the back of the Papershop magazine. So, the next day I headed up over the mountain and through the woods and finally into God Bless Us, rural America.

"Robinson Road was a left hand turn and looked decent, paved and all, until I got about a mile in and dirt flew up against the sides of my Chevy Tracker as I drove alongside rows of cornfields, big red juicy lookin’ tomatoes on stakes and cows that were so close I thought they could knock me over. The smell was something awful. Cow shit, I guess, though I never had the pleasure of such an aroma in my life.” 

“City Slicker,” a brunette in a green bikini, snorted “Go on.”

 “Finally, I pull into a driveway and I see this guy and he kinda looks familiar but after awhile I guess all us musicians start to look alike.” 

He paused to enjoy the guffaws and affirmations. The tall skinny guy in the cut off jeans stood and stretched, adjusting his package as he did. Beer cans popped again. Somebody passed gas and the red haired woman waved her hand in front of her face.

“Whew, nasty stuff, dude,” the smallest man got off his blanket, moved to the opposite side of the umbrella and flopped down in the sand.

“So,” Brillo head Bart continued, “a guy in a Grateful Dead tie-dyed sunflower tee shirt pokes his head out of the front door of this great looking red brick ranch that sits caddy cornered on a cleared lot with a swing set and an old red Volvo. I could see acres and aces of land sloping down behind the house. And what a view! Clouds and mountains, great spot, so private and quiet, not a soul around.”

He slugged from the pink cup. He had them all in the palm of his hand. He paused, wanting them to ask for more.

“Get on with it,” snarled a gruff, sleepy voice from under a straw hat.

 “So, I get out and stand by the side of the car and he trudges over to me, long shiny hair the color of lemons, blowing in the breeze. 'You Bart?' he asks. 'Yeah, Chuck?' He nods. He tells me he hardly used the guitar, bought it because it called his name when he and Jenny first met and he was whacko in love with her and everything around her. Jenny was gonna take guitar lessons, she promised, but it never happened after they had the baby and all. He tells me about how great the amp sounds and how he used it at the Arena down town and the sound was up to par, better than some of the other stuff that cost big bucks.

“I’m selling my stuff, gotta settle down, Jenny told me. So, I only play couple of times a month and I work for the county. Her uncle got me in doing maintenance at the courthouse.

“‘Way too much information,’ I think, ‘just let me see the stuff. I gotta see the stuff. Can’t wait.’ Finally, he starts walking to the house, me beside him’.

“Listen, Bart, got a favor to ask,” this Chuck looks at me with wide eyes.

“Oh, man, all I want to do is give him money and get out of there, not even try to talk him down,  cause I think it’s gonna be a good deal. In fair condition, he could get 1500 bucks. At 1200 for something good, I’ll be doing great. ‘Yeah?’ I say. I stop and look at him. His face turns red. ‘Listen, buddy. Jenny left me. It’s so lonely out here. If she don’t want me I might as well be dead.’ 

He reaches into his pocket and I see a flash of something silver. He keeps his hand in his pocket and I start to think maybe he has a gun. People get scared thinking about living in the city. But way out here, anything could happen and who’d ever know till they found your body. Why’s he telling me all this crap? I’m shakin’ inside, torn between making a run for it and sticking around just to get a look at the Fender. He stands close and I smell whiskey. I hold my breath. He leans in close to my face, we’re nose to nose, and it’s creepy.

"‘Would you take a picture of me with my guitar? Will that be a dealbreaker for ya, buddy, will it?’ Bart paces just outside the beach umbrella. 

“If I’m gonna get the guitar, I gotta keep this guy happy. So what’ll it take outta me if I take a picture? ‘Nah, I tell him, I can do that. Got a camera?’ He reaches back into the pocket and pulls out a Canon Digital.”           

As he told this part of the story, Bart turned his Brillo head so that I could hardly hear him. I scooched my beach chair as close as I could get without being noticed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Literary Mash-Ups

First up - Our good friend Nathan Bransford is holding his 2nd Annual (I just made it annual) "Be An Agent for a Day", or as I'll call it "Be An Agent for a Day II: Electric Bugaloo." So, you should all go check that out and participate!

Speaking of authors and agents blending together and blurring lines... this brings me to my question of the day. What two works of literature would you love to see combined to form a one awesome super novel? 

We all know about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Jane Slayre, but, to me, those are more Puff Daddy-style remixes, using samples of the real work with the heavy beats of vampires and zombies thrown in the mix.

I'm talking about a full, Glee-style mash-up. Maybe a "Out Stealing All the Pretty Horses" by Per Petterson and Cormac McCarthy? Or "Romeo and Juliet, Naked" by William Shakespeare and Nick Hornby? I'm not entirely sure how either plot combination would work yet, but so far I like the possibilities for cool titles.

But you tell me - what title combo or plot combo do you want to see happen?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Humble Beginnings

A little less than a year ago, I created a blog that I wanted to dedicate to writers. Promote them, publish their work, and offer (hopefully) sage advice. (OK, and sometimes I use the blog to talk about TV shows.)

In recent weeks, my number of followers reached the triple digits. Excuse me, I meant to say - TRIPLE DIGITS! This is something I did not think possible when I began Glass Cases.

For this, I just want to say a huge THANK YOU! to all of my followers - old and new. Glass Cases has come a long way from its days of yore (aka "late 2009"), but it is still a blog that is 100% for writers. Which means, it would not exist without you.

So, again, thank you all. It makes me so happy (and still sort of surprised) that my little blog is actually being read by people. And to all of my new followers - I hope you submit your work very soon!

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

God Only Watches

It's a return to Story Time after last week's break! Today's is an excerpt from a novel called God Only Watches by Carol MacAllister. She is a published writer of short fiction and poetry, including selections in two Chicken Soup collections.  She is currently working on her MFA.

God Only Watches is a historical fiction that takes place in Gotham circa 1850. It centers on a young boy who is abandoned and left on the streets. I hope you enjoy the first chapter. 

God Only Watches
By Carol MacAllister

Little James MacAvoy yawned wide as Mrs. Mackey nudged him awake. He was wedged between her two older boys, Danny and Rob, asleep on the straw mattress set on the floor in their tiny bedchamber. “Up you go, laddie.” He’d lived with the Mackey family since he was six-years old in their third floor walk-up. She steadied him as he stepped over the boys then led him into the chilly kitchen. The cold floorboards nipped his bare feet.

New York City’s streets woke quietly under a blanket of heavy humid air. A mist of gathering clouds promised a spring shower. Only a passing delivery cart rattled over ruts in the dirt roadway, disturbing the waking community cradled in the arms of dilapidated tenements. Even wagons that hauled merchandise, and the sturdy drays filled with supplies for factories, waited half-asleep as workers loaded goods at wharfs and warehouses skirting the East River. Liverymen watered horses in musty stalls to ready for a day’s work of drawing public stagecoaches and omnibuses.

“Stand still, laddie.” James wiggled around as she dressed him with her best spare clothing. A pair of Danny’s worn woolen knickers and a white cotton blouse whose collar had been turned twice and usually worn as a nightshirt. She’d fashioned a neckerchief from a strip of Maura’s old plaid skirt, light blue that matched his eyes, then worked thin knit stockings up his spindly legs. She squared a tweed slouch on his light brown hair, then placed her hands on his narrow shoulders. With a sigh, she tucked two pence and a silver medallion of the Blessed Mother in the front pocket of his patched sack coat.

Kathleen, her eldest at fourteen years, shuffled half-asleep into the drafty kitchen. Her petite frame bundled in the thin woolen overcoat she used as a robe, long auburn hair still in a braid from the night before. She filled the cast iron teakettle from the wooden bucket of rain water on the kitchen’s window ledge then scooped out a bit more to splash her face. She set the kettle on the fat-bellied coal stove to boil.

James yawned as Mrs. Mackey spoke to her daughter in a low voice. “I should be home within the hour, if all goes well. Mind the babies. Leave them sleep. We’ll have the morning meal, later.”

“Yes, Mam. But, we’ve no food. Just tea.”

“I’ll be fetching some money from Mrs. Thompson for me mendin’. I’ll stop for a sack of oatmeal on the way.”

Kathleen’s pea-green eyes widened. “Think they’ll be enough for a Mertz crumb cake? Just a wee one?”

James’s mouth watered at the thought of those sugary crumbs that crunched with a sweet cinnamon taste. He hoped Mrs. Mackey would agree.

“Not ‘til your Pa gets back to work.”

Kathleen’s bright smile faltered. Mrs. Mackey brushed her thin fingers along her daughter’s sallow cheek and cupped her chin. “Ah, Kathleen, you’re a love. I’ll fetch you something special.” She reached toward the wooden pegs on the kitchen wall next to the apartment’s door that opened in from the building’s hallway. There, she’d hung the maroon mohair shawl she’d knitted and her black spoon bonnet. She smoothed back her dark hair and repined the knot at the nape of her neck. She put her bonnet on, taking care to tuck wisps of fallen hair, tied the shiny satin ribbon under her chin and gave it a fluff. She wrapped the shawl around her white blouse, grayed at the cuffs and elbows, straightening its high collar with her fingers. Her cotton gloves were edged with scraps of lace trim leftover from the clothing she stitched for her customers, the “fine ladies”. Then she led James into the hallway that always smelled like boiled cabbage. Old newspapers and trash lay about, waiting to be carried down to the street.

“Hold onto the banister, child.” She gathered her softly pleated skirts and stepped from the third floor landing onto the stairs. He walked behind, grasping the splintery railing, carefully stretching out his short legs and the tips of his ankle boots, like a Highland stepper, to catch each riser.

When they reached the second floor landing, he tugged at her skirts. “Where we going?” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes with the back of his hands.

She didn’t look him straight in the face. “Uptown to visit an acquaintance.”

“Where the others? Ain’t dem comin’?”

“Today it’s just you and me, laddie.” She turned aside. “We’ve business needs tending.”

“Will Pa be there? You said he’d come back for me.”

She rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. “You’re right in that. He promised to come back, indeed. It’s ‘nar eight months. Winter’s gone. It’s time.” Her voice lightened. “It’s a soft spring day, laddie. Mind the wet walkways.”

“Time?” James tugged at her long skirts again. “Time for Pa?”

“Just time. Now, let go of me skirts.” She muttered to herself, then shook her head. “Too many mouths to feed.” She pulled at the shawl slipped from her stooped shoulders, then smoothed a gloved hand over her long twill skirt, as if it were made of the finest silk. She and James stepped out onto the stoop. He’d never seen the streets so empty of people, nor heard it so quiet. The racket of wagons, horses’ whinnies as they clopped along, vendors’ carts and passersby usually filled the walkways and roads. The damp smell of rain weighed the air. He looked up toward the ceiling of gray clouds, worrying about a storm. Thunder and lightening always frightened him.

“Off we go now.” Mrs. Mackey led him down the four uneven steps to the planked sidewalk. She paused for a moment and glanced up toward White then over to Pearl, as if deciding which way to walk.

That very moment, someone tipped waste from a night soil pot out an upper window. Mrs. Mackey grasped James by the elbow and whipped him aside, both just escaping the foul brown sludge that spattered across the wooden sidewalk and splashed out into the dirt roadway, mixing with mounds of horse droppings. Mrs. Mackey raised a clenched fist and shouted up at the man still standing at his open window, leaning the metal bucket on its sill. “Schultz! Walk down the steps, like everyone else. Dump the pot in the privy.”

The gray-haired man laughed, then grumbled back in German-pocked English, “Get a parasol, like a respectable frau.”

She shook her fist. “You square-head kraut. I be sending me man ‘round to split your lip.”

Ja? If Sie kin git him outta Lysaight’s. Always crying over his ale about leaving the old country.”

Mrs. Mackey huffed, threw her shoulders back then pulled James along the empty sidewalk at a quick pace under the canvas awnings of Crocker Printers, then past the saddle shop whose leather trappings always smelled good and across the narrow dark alleyway next to Wilson’s new carpentry shop. They skirted a closed biergarten, the oyster house at number 110 with its piles of stinky shells and the icehouse that scared James because it had no windows and Danny said they stored dead bodies there. Then the tailor’s display of fancy three-piece striped maroon suits, the wig makers show window with clip-on tendrils and curly switches attached to tortoise shell combs and the cordwainer’s display of shiny riding boots and sturdy brogans.

The acrid stench from tanneries mixed with plumes of sooty smoke puffing from chimneys, coal fires from smithy forges and billowing fumes from the ironwork’s fires heating up for the day. Gray ash from factory furnaces joined the mix and the low covering of thick air moved as slow as the stirring of pease pottage. Only thin shards of sunlight sliced through the overcast.

James grew sweaty from the close day and their quick pace. His neck itched and he worked his fingertips under the neckerchief in behind the collar, trying to scratch it as they walked. He tried to dawdle, hoping they’d stop to rest, but each time his pace slowed, Mrs. Mackey jerked him forward, forcing him to toddle along livelier. He found it hard to breathe and puffed like an old nag, trying to keep up. The tip of his ankle boot caught the warped edge of a sidewalk plank and he tripped. She stopped and glared down as he looked up and whimpered, “I’m tired. I’m hungry.”

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Book Connection

Last night on the subway, a guy I politely pretended to ignore was very blatantly reading over my shoulder. I was reading on my nook and at first thought he was maybe just interested in seeing what it looked like. (Which is what I do to iPad  and Kindle people.) Then he kept reading, and I figured he, too, must be enjoying Impossible by Nancy Werlin. So, I let him keep reading without doing my usual passive-aggressive "shift and sigh" routine.

Another thought came to me. If this guy is anything like me, it's possible that he was simply searching for what I was reading, which can be hard to spot if you're unfamiliar with e-readers. The way music snobs turn up their noses at beats radiating from others' iPods, I scan subway cars, parks, and cafes for titles, and then (admittedly) I form an opinion on the reader of that title. The opinion is neither negative or positive; it just simply is. I assume people do the same thing to me. In fact, sometimes I secretly hope they do, depending on what I'm reading that day.

Once on the subway (this is where I do most of my reading), I pulled out Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem. I was only in the second chapter, a dent had hardly been made. Across from me, a man was just finishing the same book. When he closed it, looking satisfied, he caught my eye (well, first he caught my book's eye), and we shared a knowing smile. It wasn't a big moment, but it was a moment. Made possible by a book.

Another time, maybe a year ago, I sat across from two people reading the same book, Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. If you haven't read it, I'll just say that it's a book that heavily uses other references - some fictional, some not. When the two across from me - a college-aged girl and a middle-aged man - realized they were reading the same book, they began discussing how they felt about the sometimes frustrating use of references. While I never, ever speak to people on the subway, I felt compelled to join in and say I had read the book a month prior, and then the three of us enjoyed a brief conversation on the merits of false footnotes.

Yet another moment made possible by books.

The thing with e-readers though, and I know this has been said before, is that you can no longer openly see what a person is reading. Thus, no judgments can be made, and no friendships can be formed. While I have on my nook books that I am not at all ashamed of - Impossible being one of them, and also The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Infinite Jest - I suspect that many book snobs use their e-readers for hiding the guilty pleasures. With the exception of the titles I mentioned above, and a few others, my nook is basically a tool for manuscripts and novels that I don't necessarily want to form a connection over. (I won't name any by name, but let's just say the words "sea monsters" and "vampires" may or may not appear in the titles.)

Now, I notice, that if what I'm reading strikes up a conversation at all, it's usually to ask me about the device itself. No one cares what I'm actually reading on that device. Call me old-fashioned, but I just can't see myself making the same type of connection over a piece of technology than I could over a tangible book. That's not to say I don't love my nook, but... I guess what I'm saying is, let more people read over your shoulders. If you're going to allow yourself to get lost in an e-book, it might be comforting to know that a real live person still could be willing to go with you.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Teenage Experience

First off, let me just say that I have had so much fun with Teen Writer Week this week, and I want to thank Kody, Steph, and Weronika for their contributions! You gals are amazing :)

Secondly, yesterday was Teen Lit Day and Scholastic, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and ReaderGirlz have some really great posts on it. Go read!

As Teen Writer Week comes to a close, I thought I'd share some of my own writing from my teen days. Since I was not nearly as creative or motivated as the lovely ladies mentioned above, these little snippets come directly from my old diaries. I promise no editing has been done. (It makes me cringe that I cannot correct my grammar!) So, enjoy the raw teen angst. To me, these quotes best represent my adventures in adolescence, and I think (hope) most teens and former teens can relate:

Age 13: "Today I got contacts! Finally no more glass. I hope I look a little more attractive than before. Maybe [major crush!] will start liking me. But, if he only likes me because of the way I look, then I don't want him anyway. Well, OK, I still do."
Age 14: "I'm sitting here watching Dawson's Creek and everytime I watch it I get the urge to write in my diary. They're fifteen on the show! That's like me in like 9 months. I've never had a conversation like these people ever!"
Age 15: "I've been thinking about college lately, mostly about how I don't know what I want to do w/ my life. I got my DAT results back, which is a test to see where you should pursue a career. They told me I should work w/ the fine arts or music, which is basically my dream job, but realistically I don't see that happening. Oh well. I don't really know what I'll do."
Age 16: "If 16 is supposed to be this great and wonderful age, and I don't feel any different, then what the hell is 17 going to feel like?"
Age 17: "I hate high school. Every little thing that's 'a major crisis' is just stupid shit no one cares about."
Age 18: "I'm beginning the phase in my life where I'm just freaking out. The fact that I'm leaving and going out into the world alone is hitting me. I mean, I was aware of this before, but ever since I decided on Ithaca and they're sending me more and more stuff, it's like 'ok, this is actually happening now.' And I am completely terrified."

Also, in the spirit of Teen Writer Week, I ask you all to leave a quote - whether from a diary you have handy or from a moment in time that's stayed in your memory - in the comments that you think sums of your teen years!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Getting to Know: Weronika Janczuk

Fans of the blog might remember today's featured writer from her appearance on Glass Cases back in October 2009. Weronika Janczuk has since turned 18 and just completed a major revision of the novel she had given us a glimpse of before, Where the Doves Fly. Also back in October, Weronika expressed interest in attending a "NYC-based university," a goal she can now cross off her list, as she plans to attend NYU next fall, where she intends to "double-major in English and Journalism with a focus on creative writing and real-life application (publishing)." Whoa.

Weronika queried a middle grade spy novel when she was only twelve years old. "But, of course, the darn thing wasn't ready for the world," she admits. Over the next six years, Weronika has had a few poems and essays published in various magazines, e-zines, and anthologies, and is now, obviously, focusing on her novel. She also writes on her blog, Weronika Janczuk: Writer & Intern. On writing: "I love to write and I love the possibility of exploring worlds and other people, so despite the hurdles that continue to arise I'll always write."

Among her influences are Kate DiCamillo, Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson, and J.K. Rowling. She also gives me an opportunity to correct a mistake I made yesterday about a writer, who also happened to be one of Steph Bowe's influences, Sara Henry. (I had accidentally referred to Sara as Australian yesterday. In fact, she is not!) Sara, along with Weronika's other "real-life" mentors, YA novelist, Swati Avasthi, and writer, Ina V. Steinman, offered Weronika sage advice that has stayed with her, including how to apply screenwriting basics to make her novel work.

Weronika is currently looking for an agent for Where the Doves Fly and is in the process of outlining two previously written novels, one fantasy, the other contemporary YA. Where the Doves Fly is a literary, historical novel about "artistic struggle, the relationship between fathers and daughters, and obligations to both family and country." She estimates that she's 20% finished with a rewrite of her fifth draft, but can't wait to start pitching it to agents: "I think I will pitch it as something similar to THE LOVELY BONES - an adult book with YA crossover potential."

So after she accomplishes her dreams of becoming a published writer and graduating from college, Weronika hopes to turn her current internship at a literary agency into a career. "I've come to realize that I love this world of books and writing and quirky/witty/awesome people," Weronika says of her "overarching plan" to eventually open her own agency. "It'd be awesome to do all of that within ten years," she adds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Getting to Know: Steph Bowe

Teen Writer Week continues with another talented adolescent. Steph Bowe is sixteen years old and has been running the popular blog, Hey! Teenager of the Year, since April 2009. Being from a rural area in Australia, Steph says she didn't have many people to talk to in real life about what she was reading. So, she started a blog to fill that void. Since then, she's also used the blog to review books and interview authors. 

Being an author herself, Steph began focusing on the writing and publishing process on Hey! Teenager... "As I've become a more serious writer I've become a more dedicated blogger, too, and it's helped me a lot in terms of being aware of the publishing industry, other writers, and YA around the world," says Steph.

When I asked Steph how old she was when she started writing (that is, with the intent to be published), her answer was 7 (!). She began querying by 14, was agented by 15, and is about to have her first novel, Girl Saves Boy, published at 16. [Note to "grown-ups:" any of you who say kids today are apathetic, unmotivated, and lack the work ethic of their elders, I'd ask you, nicely, to please stop talking.]

While many authors, especially in Australia, have been supportive and helpful to Steph, she hasn't had any specific mentors: "Writing was something I picked up on my own because I enjoyed it, and the great thing I love about writing is it isn't really something you need someone else to teach you. Obviously it's not a club you have to be recruited into, either. You mostly figure stuff out for yourself and do it your own way."

One Australian writer, Sara Henry, however, was particularly important to Steph. Sara was the first to suggest that Steph contact American literary agents to get Girl Saves Boy out into the world where it belongs. And it's a good thing Steph listened because U.S. agents were apparently clamoring for her! 

Steph says, "I sent out three queries, then three fulls, and within a fortnight had two offers of representation." Shortly thereafter, Steph was a runner-up in a writer's blog contest, which awarded her a partial read by yet another agent. That agent was who Steph eventually signed with, and I have the completely unbiased pleasure of saying Steph's agent is the fabulous Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown, Ltd.

In addition to finishing high school, Steph is currently working on her next novel and hopes to someday work in the publishing industry in Australia. Girl Saves Boy, will be published by Text Publishing in Australia this September and then in the U.S. by Egmont USA in 2011. It is a moving story about a girl who saves a boy from drowning, leaving the two to deal with the consequences of a romance. Steph would like for Girl Saves Boy to speak to teens who feel isolated or misunderstood, which, she admits, "is basically every teenager ever."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

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.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Teen Writer Week!

I declare this week in the name of teenagers! 

In case you were not aware, there are some pretty awesome teens out there right now who are writing fabulous and impressive books that you're going to want to read. So, I decided to devote a week on Glass Cases to some of these wunderkinds, including interviews, discussions, and other fun things. 

To start things off, let me share two of my favorite teen writers - who are no longer teens! - S.E. Hinton and Nick McDonell. To me, The Outsiders was the first real YA novel. It was published when the author was only 16 years old, which means she was writing it when she was about 14. At that age, she managed to capture perfectly the pains of adolescence (in boys, no less!) and created some of the most memorable characters of all time in the process. My heart still breaks for Ponyboy. I just want to hug him, and that feeling only intensifies the more times I read it as an adult. 

The other author, Nick McDonell, is one I've mentioned before back when I read his first novel, Twelve. This was published in 2003 and written when the author was just 17. Again, the depth of his characters and awareness of what is happening in the outside world is so astute in that "beyond-his-years" way that I just could not get over. I definitely wouldn't call Nick McDonell a YA author, even though his characters are teens/young adults. Rather, Twelve, read more like a 21st century Bright Lights Big City, which to me only made it seem more impressive and his age that much more unbelievable. 

Both The Outsiders and Twelve, while very different from each other, also have crossover appeal, which isn't easy in YA in general, let alone by novels written by teenagers themselves. 

I also want to mention the first teen writer I was ever truly inspired by. When I was 14 and at the height of my love of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (OK, so there was no "height" so much as a never-ending devotion that continues to this day), a teen/vampire/romance novel came out called In The Forests of the Night by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, who was also 14 at the time. I read about the release of her book in Seventeen magazine and was so excited that someone my own age was not only a published author, but writing about stuff I loved. They just don't make books like that for teens anymore, unless you count pretty much all of them. Go back and read Amelia Atwater-Rhodes! Like L.J. Smith (The Vampire Diaries, Night World) and Annette Curtis Klause (The Silver Kiss, Blood and Chocolate) she was a pioneer in this genre that has absolutely exploded. 

So, in case you just joined us, we're talking about books written by teens (note: not necessarily for teens) here on Glass Cases all week! Who are some of your favorite teen writers? And if you are a teen writer, feel free to share your inspirations/what you write in the comments below.

Stay tuned for profiles on Steph Bowe, Kody Keplinger, and Weronika Janczuk!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Big News!

Big news that I can (officially!) share with you all - I am now an associate agent with Curtis Brown, Ltd! I am very, very excited about this. I've been with Curtis Brown since 2008 as an assistant to the foreign rights agent, and while some of you may have already suspected (via here, Twitter, etc) that I'm starting to build my own list, please consider this my "official" announcement. Tell your writer friends! And use this link to learn more about what I'm looking for and how to submit a query to me.

So, what does this mean for Glass Cases/mankind in general?

It means that I'd love to keep posting stories and using the blog with my original intention in mind. The guidelines for the blog are on the side, as always, and have not changed. However! I must give the disclaimer that Glass Cases submissions will not be considered queries to me or to Curtis Brown, Ltd. in any way. Any query that shows up in my Glass Cases inbox will get instantly deleted. Please, please use the CB guidelines and send me a query via standard mail or via my CB email address. (Again, see the links above.)

Sorry if this comes off as harsh. I also have faith that you didn't need to be told in the first place, but sadly I must cover all bases. It's just that I'd really like to keep up the blog as it is now and not have to worry about my worlds colliding, thus creating chaos.

Moving on.

In more awesome news, here are some links to know and love this week:
1) Janet Reid, Suzie Townsend, and Joanna Stampfel Volpe present A Day in the Life of a Literary Agent. Hilarity ensues.
2) The Rejectionist speaks to MFA graduates who, while taught how to be excellent writers, are not (unfortunately) taught the realities of publishing. (Please read if you are in/graduated from such a program and are trying to get an agent!)
3) Not book-related, but it involves the cast of Mad Men performing the opening of Bye Bye Birdie, which automatically makes it worth watching:

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

His Last Day

Just because it's beautiful out today doesn't mean today's story need to be sunny and happy and warm. Since nothing chills a person more than a good bit of horror, I'm bringing you just that on this gorgeous spring day. It comes from Brandon Markham, a writer from Los Angeles and, more recently, Arizona. He writes horror and fantasy. Enjoy his short story, His Last Day, and then go enjoy the day outside!
His Last Day
By Brandon Markham

Today’s job was Robert Milton Jr., a sixty-five year old pedophile charged with the murder and rape of a two year old. Ben always loved putting these guys to sleep. The executioner strode down the corridor, the very air permeated with rot and death. Over a hundred of these people Ben condemned, and a hundred more would come before he would die. The thirty year old loved his job. It gave him a reason to kill.

Today was the last day however, He served his time in County, but he would commit another crime to go back. He pushed these thoughts back, pondering how he should kill this person. Should he do it slowly with nail clippers like last time? Nah, that was slow. Ben always loved slow things and thought. It gave him time, and every second he savored it.  

Ah…he thought, a wicked smile crept on his pale face. With a dirty and blood soaked hand, he reached in his pocket of his overalls, and produces a mask. It was a medieval thing that mask, one that could always be seen in comics and cartoons. It was black and covered the head; two holes were made to see through the veil. It was also pointed. Yes…the traditional executioners’ mask.    

The door in front of him was made of iron. The other side would soon be in blood. He opened it, and an ancient sound crept out as the door was pushed further and further, and he was their.

The man, Robert Milton that is, was blindfolded and naked. He was fat and disgusting, his hair almost seemed like second skin. A yellow puddle was beneath the molded wooden chair he was strapped to. The room was comforting however. All the tools he needed were right on that table. Brass knuckles, knives, screwdrivers, chainsaws…Ben laughed, who uses chainsaws anymore?

He shut the door, Robert turning his head this way and that.

“Who’s there?” He screamed in fear. “Where am I?”

“You’re in County, Robert, you’re in County.” Ben replied

“L-l-l-look…I did nothing wrong! Nothing you hear? Please, just-“

“You’re not getting out” Ben interrupted. He wanted to make this point clear, and it worked. Robert thrashed…or attempted to. His screams were heard throughout, something Ben hated. Screams were music to others, but to him…they were just annoying. He walked over with his butcher knife slowly. Ben enjoyably slashed at Robert’s mouth. In return’ the naked man screamed in gurgling horror, blood filling his mouth, but it did not choke him.

“Please…I’m begging you…please…”Robert pleaded

“How’d she feel? Young and untouched…like a little girl huh? You had ultimate control over her. She feel good right? You feel good knowing that you killed her?”
The blind fold moved upwards, Robert’s eyes has widened

“Uh-what are you talking about?” Robert exclaimed. “I did no such thing!” Ben laughed. Liars get extra treatment.

“Well then, let’s get something clear: you raped her Robert. You killed her as well. Your own daughter”

“What the fuck are you-gah!” The knife penetrated Robert’s knee and he screamed a scream that that sounded like a sharp squall. The nest penetration went to his ear, but not all the way. Ben was not finished.

“I hate screams…reminds me to much of how I screamed when I was just a runt. Daddy shoulda never came at me like he did. So bear with me’ alright?” Ben walked over towards the stone table and grabbed a pair of p.v.c. cutters. They were like pliers, but a short thin blade replaced the locking part, leaving only the handles. Immediately the cold from the metal was gone. Ben walked back and removed the blindfold, ripping it. He grabbed Robert’s penis and placed it between blade and handle.

“Don’t scream alright?”

Ben squeezed the cutters once; the blade did not touch the penis…yet. Another squeeze cut into the meat, a Robert disobeyed. The next squeeze ended it, Robert’s manhood taken from him.

“Now then…how about those eyes? Jesus always said to cut out your eyes if did adultery. Oh yeah…didn’t he say something about hands?”

The scream rose sharply, and lasted into the night.

* * * * *

The Boss was standing outside the door with a gun. Ben was surprised when he saw this. His joy was stolen. Six hours of nothing but skin peeling, bone pulling, hair pulling, eye plucking, and finally decapitation through his torso was all stolen with that gun. The Boss shot, was Ben faltered.

“What the…what the…hell…” Ben trailed as the puddle of blood was being formed.  The Boss, with his ebony face and graying hair answered.

“You know not to kill anyone innocent Ben, so I should be the one asking that question.”

“Uh-what are you talking about?” Robert exclaimed in memory. “I did no such thing!”

Shit…Ben thought. Before he drifted of to his death, there was Robert. His final moments were enjoyable, though he did tell the truth. In fact, Ben knew that Robert did not commit such a crime. Things were so slow around County, even for Robert. He laughed in the face of death in the end. Also, for the fun of it, he let out a weak scream.