Monday, October 14, 2013

Story Never Dies

Every once in awhile, I see people arguing about ebooks versus print books.

Before I started reading ebooks, I was definitely on the print side of this argument. But now, well...frankly...

I don't think there is an argument.

See, the thing is, it's not really the format that's important. It's the story.

People will never not love story. They've loved it since cave man days--what do you think all those cave paintings are? Part of a story.

If you think about it, every single form of entertainment that we enjoy is part of a story. Movies, obviously, but music as well. Sometimes--such as with most country songs--it's easy to see the story. But even music without a singer tells a story.

This is Für Elise" by Beethoven, one of my favorite songs.And it tells a story. It actually has great story structure. Listen to the way it opens--it comes back to those sounds at the beginning in the final notes. This is known as a "fugue," but in the book world, it's a "theme."

All the good art is a story. There is art that is highly symbolic, such as Pre-Raphaelite art or the work of Alphonse Mucha.

But even work that's not purposefully telling a story--does. For example, probably my least favorite work of art is the Dada "Fountain" toilet by Duchamps:

It's a toilet.

But it still has a story.

Seriously. If you can look at this and think, "WTF?", then you've already fallen into the story.

All art has story. All art has story. To me, this is the definition of what art is: an object with story. And we are surrounded, all the time, by art. By story. Even something as simple as the clothes we wear has a story. I'm a huge fan of Project Runway; in the current season, my favorite designer is NCSU alum Justin Leblanc. Justin is deaf, and his most recent project tells a story--of how he got a cochlear implant and heard sound for the first time. [You can see the complete collection shown here.]

In the runway show, the first dress was solid white--his life without sound.

The next dress was dark, with splatters on the bottom, and sound waves graphically printed on the top. His life when he first heard sound, and was overwhelmed by the chaotic nature of it.

Art surrounds us--story surrounds us. And story inspires story. There is story in every tattoo...

...and there is story in this poem by Ted Kooser, "Tattoo," inspired by a time he saw an old man with a tattoo.
What once was meant to be a statement—
a dripping dagger held in the fist
of a shuddering heart—is now just a bruise
on a bony old shoulder, the spot
where vanity once punched him hard
and the ache lingered on. He looks like
someone you had to reckon with,
strong as a stallion, fast and ornery,
but on this chilly morning, as he walks
between the tables at a yard sale
with the sleeves of his tight black T-shirt
rolled up to show us who he was,
he is only another old man, picking up
broken tools and putting them back,
his heart gone soft and blue with stories.

from Delights & Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA 2004
(PS: Check out these hyper-realistic tattoos! I like the cyborg ones.)

All of it is story; all of it is art. When we think of something as being "good art" or "bad art," what we're really arguing about is whether or not the story the art told strikes a cord with us. I don't like "Fountain" not because it's not art, but because the story it tells doesn't resonate with me.

This is why it doesn't matter to me if a book is print or ebook. It's the story that matters, not the medium.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This Saturday--4 Author Event in Columbia, SC

Join me this Saturday for a fun-filled event with four awesome YA authors!


Who: Me, Jessica Khoury, Rachel Hawkins, and Megan Miranda
Where: Books-A-Million, 164 Forum Dr., Columbia SC. Directions here.
When: This Saturday from 1:00-3:00pm
What: A fun panel where we will talk, goof-off, and probably say inappropriate things before we sign your books.

Come! It'll be fun!!

GRAVITY Movie Review (Spoiler Free)

I don't usually post movie reviews, but I also don't usually see a movie as wonderful as Gravity.

This film had been on my radar for awhile, but I'll admit that I had my doubts. When the movie trailer first came out, I wondered two key things:

  1. Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie alone? I know they're both talented, but an hour and a half with just two people? 
  2. What's the plot? Is there a plot? Is it JUST Sandra lost in space?

The answers are simple.

Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie on their own? YES. And brilliantly so. And, to be fair, most of the movie is Sandra alone, and it is amazing.

Can a movie about Sandra lost in space have a plot? YES. I think the trailer does one big disservice--it makes it look as if the entire movie is Sandra drifting. And, while the space photography would be lovely in such a case, that would actually lead for a boring story.

Instead, the plot is more about how Sandra has to figure out a way to survive. After a field of debris strikes the shuttle Sandra, George, and a crew of astronauts were on, the survivor(s) must find a way back to Earth. Using space stations currently in orbit and whatever supplies they can scavenge, they must attempt to survive in a place that is not capable of supporting human life.

In short, it's a survival story in space.

And it is mind-blowingly gorgous.

First, you have all the shots of Earth and space from space--and while the movie could have just been done with a backdrop of space, I have to say that director Alfonso Cuarón actually turned the setting into a character, one of the best things a movie (or book) can do. 

The title of the movie is apt--it takes place almost entirely in space, and you see all the glorious weightless shots you'd expect--things floating away, drifting, astronauts soaring. But there are a few moments when it's just breathtakingly well done. My friend Megan Shepherd recommended we see the movie in 3D, although I was doubtful--I rarely think 3D is worth it. It is for this movie. It so is. There's a scene where a single tear floats out of the screen, and it looks real. And rather than 3D being an afterthought, the 3D features of this movie, with only a few rare exceptions, enhance it in such a way that I cannot think of a better 3D movie in existence.

You don't just have space in the background. In one of the opening shots, you have a view of Earth and space, and then, slowly, the camera pans to a tiny speck. The speck grows larger and larger and eventually you see that the speck was actually the shuttle the astronauts are working from. Sure, you know space is big. But you also know the shuttle is big, so seeing it in perspective suddenly puts you in perspective.

Perspective is also the strength of Sandra Bullock's acting in this movie. She plays the character of Ryan, a woman on her first mission in space. She's not there for the love of it--she's there to work on the Hubble telescope and go home. Her fear is real and visceral even before the debris field strikes, and after--her fear becomes our fear. 

She is a the perfect "every man." And even moreso, she shows us her character rather than tells us. There is a tiny amount of backstory to her life--just a hint of what she's like back on Earth--but the vast majority of the movie isn't so much about who she is in normal conditions--it's about who she is right here, right now. 

I don't to spoil anything for you. So rather than give away the plot, I thought I'd just say this: this movie literally had my heart racing, tears burning my eyes, my breath caught in my throat--and I could not look away. 

Too long; didn't read version:

PS: I'm calling it now. ALL THE OSCARS. ALL OF THEM.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

YA Scavenger Hunt

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

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are THREE contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the BLUE TEAM--but there is also a red team and a gold team for a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!

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


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

Entry Form: Once you've added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian's permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 6, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.


Today, I am hosting Kimberly Derting on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Kimberly Derting is the author of the BODY FINDER series, THE PLEDGE trilogy, and THE TAKING (coming Summer 2014). She lives in the Seattle area, with her husband and three children, who often find the outrageous things they say either in the pages of her books or posted on Twitter or Facebook for the entire world to see.

Find out more information by checking out Kim's author website or find more about the author's book here! 


To save her country, Charlie must sacrifice...but how much? Love and war are at stake in the riveting conclusion to the Pledge trilogy.

The Hunt is over, so Kim's exclusive content is now hidden. However, go to her website--you'll be able to see a sneak peek of The Offering there!


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