Thursday, August 26, 2010

My father hated wind chimes.

I suppose he wouldn't have had any problem with wind chimes kept indoors. His primary problem with them, in fact, was that they are typically kept outdoors, where they have the best chance of catching any wind. When they do, as any pre-schooler can tell you, they chime. Some are quite large and quite loud. Often, on a particularly windy day--say a breezy spring Sunday, when the neighbors' windows are open--the sound will ring frequently, up and down the block, invading others' homes. This bothered my dad, who believed a person in his own home shouldn't have to listen to someone else's wind chimes, no matter how pleasant the sound might be to the owner.

This made a tremendous amount of sense to me growing up, in no small part because my dad said it. For much of my life, even most of it, I pitched this idea on occasion, believing firmly that no one should be forced to hear wind chimes from anyone else's garden. I had never given it much thought, but instead absorbed it as a knee-jerk belief.

Now, as an adult, I have shed this particular nugget of justice theory. I like wind chimes quite a lot now, and I think I'd have to be in a pretty hostile mood to say a bad thing against them.

Why am I talking about wind chimes? In writing (and in reading), I have my share of knee-jerk opinions--the results of taking part in so many crit groups and workshops, and from reading instruction in creative writing. We all know a handful of these rules--cut to the chase; show don't tell; don't write in first/second/third person without a damn good reason--and they are often important to consider. But they are not, in and of themselves, justification for their own existence. That is, just because the rule exists, doesn't mean we have to follow it.

Without question, a writer should examine the work, consider the old chestnuts (especially "show, don't tell"; I think it's often misunderstood, however, and I'll probably get around to a decent rant on the subject at some point). The writer's workshoppers should apply every little crit trick they've picked up. But they are not gospel. A work in second person that doesn't get its legs till word two thousand, and that commits the "suddenly" sin on page thirteen, might still be a great work. If the writer dwells on these rules, he or she will become paralyzed by their weight.

So sit in your office with the windows open and enjoy those wind chimes. If they need to come down because they're really driving you batty, we can take it up with your neighbor once cooler heads prevail. But if the sound is actually pretty nice, go with it for a while.

Publishers Weekly review

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Just a quick note. Publishers Weekly has reviewed The Absolute Value of -1, and since we're pretending SLJ and Kirkus don't exist, that makes it the first trade print publication to review my book! Here is some of the review. (For the next week, I suppose, you can read the whole thing here. Scroll down, and hurry--if you wait too long it will slip into the archives and require you to search, for which you need a subscription to, I think.)

Brezenoff … packs his first book for teenagers with emotion. … Lily, Noah, and Simon are friends … who are drifting apart. ... When Simon quits smoking and cautiously begins hanging out with another track team member, he alienates Lily and Noah, and continues to struggle with human connections. … Each of the three teenagers has a turn at first-person narration, revisiting the same scenario from different perspectives. Brezenoff nicely differentiates their voices and personalities, even while their narratives are bound together by the frustrations, self-doubt (and hatred), and pain they share.

Win, win, win!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Perhaps not all readers of the Exile follow the YA blogosphere quite closely, or perhaps you are relatively new to said 'sphere. Well, I'm here to tell you, Reviewer X is back. She's been back for a little while now--maybe two weeks?--after a long hiatus.

Last week, she hosted my pub story. Don't read it. Then, she announced a contest. If you help promote the contest--or even if you just go comment on the contest--you get an entry to win a copy of The Absolute Value of -1. There will be two winners! And, since I'll be sending the books out myself, I can even personalize a copy for you if you win! It doesn't get more exciting than this, folks.

Head over there and comment, and Tweet, and link on your blog! So many ways to earn an entry.

He was a skater boy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

First an apology. I recently changed my settings so I'd have to approve every comment. I assumed Blogger would email me to let me know a comment required approval. I was wrong. So, upon logging in today (to write this post), I found many comments awaiting approval! Now they are approved.

Of course, you can imagine how I felt with no comments on my most recent post: unloved, my dear readers. Well, much better now, so thanks to all for the congrats and shoe advice. I decided to go with the classic black-white checker slip-ons, rather than the black and charcoal ones pictured below. By the way, besides my undying love of the canvas sneakers of my youth (Chucks and Vans, that is), I wanted those kicks because a character* in Two Summers wears them. It is an homage--an homage that I can't wear in public because it will embarrass my wife, but an homage just the same.

In other news, School Library Journal and Kirkus have terrible taste. However, Second Star and Guys Lit Wire are wonderful and thrilling in every regard. Please go watch Kellie read some Lily:

And read GLW's thoughtful, in-depth, and fairly long review of |-1|.

*The character in Two Summers is not actually Avril Lavigne, who is in no way associated with this blog, except that once I saw her perform on the Radio City Music Hall sign as she rehearsed for her appearance on the MTV Awards. My then-office was less than a block away.