“Please, Call them “Commercials” — Not Trailers!”- A New Era for Book Ads

I am happy to share the following press release with you.  Daniel Nayeri is a fantastic author and I have enjoyed his books in the past.  This past May, I picked up a sample ARC of his newest endeavor- Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow: Four Novellas, a collection of four novellas.  I was intrigued, because novellas are an underused way of writing for the YA crowd.  I picked up the sample and read it this summer.  It is awesome.  I highly recommend the finished copy, coming this month.  It’s perfect for YA readers who may be hesitant to pick up a longer novel due to time constraints, busy schedules, not “loving” reading (yet!), or a variety of other reading “excuses” that I hear weekly in my classroom.  Nayeri presents the answer with four novellas that are large on story but thin on page number.

Press Release (courtesy of Candewick):

Please, Call them “Commercials” —  Not Trailers!
YA author Daniel Nayeri makes his solo writing debut on October 25th, when his collection of four novellas,
titled Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blowreleases from Candlewick Press.
In an ambitious promotional project, Nayeri worked with a leading production studio, Plywood Pictures, to produce a series of four commercials to accompany each story from the book.

Viewable here, prepare to say “wow!” — http://vimeo.com/groups/strawwoodbrickhouseblow 

Says Nayeri about the final clips, “Each of these commercials tries to give a sense of the tone of each story. I tried as hard as I could to keep my nose out of it. The Plywood Pictures guys are pros. They’ve done this for companies WAY bigger than me. So I said my peace and got out of their way. I love what they came up with. I’d love to see more book commercials, instead of trailers. From a writer’s perspective, they didn’t mess around with a story that I spent years laboring over. They made their own thing.”

Fast Facts about the Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow videos:

1. The visual effects side for “Our Lady of Villains” took about 45 hours..not including at least a day of screen tests and noodling around with the technology.

3. “Toy Farm” was filmed entirely in Plywood Pictures studio with green screen backgrounds. (photo attached). Using stills and some digital camera tracking tools, they were able to fill in the rest of the scenes digitally. The impressive train and trestle were filmed on the green screen, as were the puffs of cotton, but everything else was a conglomeration of various photos of national parks which were sourced online.

4. The real trick for the “Wish Police” commercial was simply the machine. The machine took a couple days to design on paper and then about 2.5 days to build. (early blueprint attached with photo of assembly)

About the book:

This bold collection of novellas by Another series author Daniel Nayeri features four riveting tales. These modern riffs on classic genres will introduce young adult readers to a broad range of writing styles that explore universally compelling themes such as identity and belonging, betrayal and friendship, love and mortality.

Straw House: A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.

Wood House: This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls “ReCreation Day.”

Brick House: This detective story set in modern NYC features a squad of “wish police” and a team of unlikely detectives.

Blow: A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one. With humor, suspense, and relatable prose, this hip and cutting-edge collection dazzles.

Written entirely on an iPhone, this quartet of YA novellas by Another Pan and Another Faust author Daniel Nayeri showcases four different genres.



Thank You, Steve Jobs.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple IIe.  At my aunt’s house, I logged onto AOL and discovered the internet.  At school, our new computer lab was soon full of similar Apple computers.  I remember indoor recess sessions at my elementary school spent playing Number Munchers and Oregon Trail.  The Apple computers were easy to use and we were drawn to them.  Then, when I got to high school, we had a lab full of brand new iMacs and I was officially in love.

Slowly, people around me fell in love with Apple, too.  Today, my brothers and sisters own a variety of iPods.  My youngest sister doesn’t remember a world without iPods and iPhones.  My friends bought Macbooks, iMacs, Macbook Airs.  Currently, my brother is saving his money for his first Mac laptop.  I ordered my Verizon iPhone the morning preorders were available and I love it.  My friends own iPhones.  In fact, I learned of Job’s death from a text on my iPhone.   I raced to open my NYTimes app to see if the news was true.  I then pulled up the Apple homepage.  All on my phone, thanks to Apple and Steve Jobs.

When I was in college and could finally afford to buy the laptop of my dreams, I purchased my first Macbook.  I saved for months and researched for even longer.  The day my refurbished laptop arrived, I tore into the packaging.  Right out of the box it was ready to use.  My love grew deeper.  Today, I am using a Macbook Pro and can not imagine ever going back to a PC.

I also remember watching Steve Jobs as he introduced the iPod.  A few years later, my now-husband purchased me an iPod touch for Christmas.  I still have it.  I salivated over the industry-changing iPad when it was introduced and my amazing husband surprised me with one for my birthday.  I use Apple products everyday and they have changed my life.

I’ve been an Apple fangirl for most of my life.  At my techy high school, Steve Jobs was an idol.  His innovation and willingness to try and fail served as an example to us all.  This commercial was an inspiration to my class.  The school put up “Think Different” posters all over, which I loved.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Tomorrow, I will share Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address from 2005 with my freshman.  I’ve already posted the above commercial on our class Facebook page and our school BBS.

Two days ago, I sat in our faculty room during my prep and watched the announcement from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California.  I was hoping to see a surprise appearance by Steve Jobs, wearing his trademark blue jeans.  While he didn’t appear, the announcement left me excited and of course, wishing I could upgrade to the new iPhone 4S.

Tonight, I mourn the loss of a true innovator.  Steve Jobs, I thank you for being an inspiration.  You lived your life proving that liberal arts and engineering not only can go hand-in-hand, but that they must go hand-in-hand.  You weren’t afraid to fail and you showed the rest of the world that sometimes failing is the only way to truly succeed.  You changed the way we communicate with each other, the way we consume and create media, and our expectations for personal and mobile computing devices.  Steve, you had the courage to think you could change the world. And you did.  I thank you.


It’s Time for the Cybils!

I am very excited to announce that I will be a Round 1 Panelist for the Middle Grade Science-Fiction/Fantasy category for this year’s Cybil Awards!  I tend to focus on YA here on the blog, but I have a special place in my heart for MG science fiction and fantasy.  It’s what my youngest sister loves to read and what many of my new freshman enjoy reading.  I am looking  forward to some great nominations this year!

The Panelists and Judges:

Round One

Charlotte Taylor
Charlotte’s Library

Anamaria Anderson
Books Together

Donalyn Miller
The Book Whisperer

Justin Colussy-Estes
Guys Lit Wire

Sarah Mulhern Gross
The Reading Zone

April Conant
Good Books & Good Wine

Rebecca Newland
My Reading Frenzy

Round Two

Melissa Baldwin
One Librarian’s Book Reviews

Hayley Beale
100 Great Children’s Books

Kim Rapier
Si, se puede

Rosemary Kiladitis
More Coffee, Please

Gina Ruiz

There are some great bloggers in my group, huh? 🙂

Remember, nominations are already open!  Head over to the Cybils blog to get your nominations in!

Breadcrumbs Blog Tour- Interview with Anne Ursu

Anne, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on TheReadingZone blog. I am currently a high school teacher (former middle school teacher), so I don’t read a lot of middle grade novels these days. However, I have been sharing Breadcrumbs with EVERYONE I know. On the first day of school I gave my ARC to one rising sophomore, with a waiting list after her. I know it will be a big hit with my students. I am dying to know what inspired the book. Did the characters come first, or was it the story?

Thank you so much; I’m so happy to hear that! I love that older kids are reading the book. I think reading levels should always begin with a number and end with the words “and up.”

I was actually inspired originally by the fairy tale of “The Snow Queen.” I’d never read it as a child, and when I finally did I was struck by the story of a boy and a girl who are best friends until, one day, the boy changes. This happens all the time when you’re a kid—you lose friends as you grow. But in this case, the girl decides she’s going to get her friend back. I loved that.

Have you always loved fairy tales? Did you find it easier or harder to write with the fairy tale world in mind? In other words, did you feel the already-created worlds fenced you in, or did they leave you free to write even more?

I adored fairy tales when I was young. I had this anthology of Grimm that was my dad’s from when he was a kid, and I read it over and over. I can still remember what that book felt like in my hands. This might be why I think “woods” when I think fairy-tale-world.

When I first read “The Snow Queen,” I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to do a retelling because the adventures Gerda goes on when she’s trying to find Kai are pretty random, and I just didn’t find them that interesting. It was some time before I remembered that part of the deal of writing fiction is you get to do whatever you want.  The fantasy world in Breadcrumbs could have been anything, really—and I decided it would be a fairy-tale world with an Anderson-like feel to it. But I still got to do whatever I wanted in the world—sample from fairy tales and myth, and write my own fairy tales,
too. It was very freeing in the long run.

What was it like to reference so many classic, well-loved books? Did you include your own favorites? And what is your all-time favorite children’s book?

The references to other books came pretty naturally—I knew I wanted Hazel to be a reader, that she would interpret her world through books she’s read, because those stories are really part of the fabric of her universe, and a part of how she connects with other people. And of course this meant that Hazel would really be interpreting her world through books I read and loved. Some were favorites from when I was a kid—A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth. Others are books I love now, like The Golden Compass, When You Reach Me, The Wall and the Wing, and of course Harry Potter.

As for my all-time favorite book, that’s a great question. I have one shelf of books that I saved from when I was a kid—on it are some of the Little House books, Betsy-Tacy, Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books, A Wrinkle in Time, Understood Betsy, and all of the Anne of Green Gables books. I think Anne of Green Gables probably has to be my life-long favorite, and has certainly formed how I interpret my world. Anne Shirley knew what was important: finding kindred spirits, places that had scope for the imagination, and, of course, spelling your name with an “e.”

Yes!  Anne and I are kindred spirits.  I am a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery.  My Anne and Emily books are some of my most prized possessions!

How do you write? Are you an outliner or a fly-by-the-seat of your pants writer?

By the seat of your pants is the only way to fly! I wish I were an outliner—I think it would save me a lot of time. But I tend to figure out a story by writing it. Sometimes this works, and everything falls into place. Sometimes it’s a disaster. The original draft of The Siren Song, the second book in my trilogy, was a lumpy, sad wreck of a thing, and after I handed in the draft to my editor I’d wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks. During one of these middle-of-the-night sessions I finally figured out how to fix the book—and it involved deleting and completely rewriting the first 200 pages. Which I did. You would think this would be enough to get me to outline. But if you keep learning from experience, how could you ever repeat the same mistakes?

So true!  Now for the most important question: what is your favorite writing snack?

Popcorn. Airpopped, shellacked in I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter spray and salt. It’s the key to my productivity. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Anne, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!  I hope we hear a lot more about Breadcrumbs over the next few months!

On Tuesday, 10/4 at 8pm EDT  Anne Ursu (@anneursu) and Bigger than a Bread Box author Laurel Snyder (@LaurelSnyder) will participate in a chat hosted by the incomparable Paul W. Hankins (@PaulWHankins), called “Magic is Real: Magic, Fantasy, and Realism in Middle Grade” under the hashtag #magicisreal.  Be sure to stop by and join in! 

Additional Breadcrumbs Blog Tour Stops

Tuesday, 9/27 – Review and Book Giveaway at Mundie Kids
Wednesday, 9/28 – Review and Skype Giveaway at Great Kid Books
Wednesday, 9/28 – Book Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, 9/29 – Interview at Bildungsroman
Friday, 9/30 – Review, Guest Post, and Book Giveaway at Bookalicious
Saturday, 10/1 – Interview and Skype Giveaway at Kid Lit Frenzy
Sunday, 10/2 – Review, Interview, and Book Giveaway at The Reading Zone
Monday, 10/3 – Guest Post at Galleysmith
Tuesday 10/4 – Review at Galleysmith
Tuesday, 10/4 – Guest Post, Review, and Book Giveaway at The Book Smugglers
Wednesday, 10/5 – Review and Illustrator Interview at A Backwards Story
Thursday, 10/6 – Guest Post at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
Friday, 10/7 – Interview at Book Rat

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Review and Giveaway)

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a love song to book lovers.  I first heard about it when a few of my Tweeps mentioned it on Twitter.  When I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publisher, I set my other books aside and sank into my couch with it.  A few hours later, I struggled to leave Ursu’s world behind in order to be a functional member of society again.  It’s that good.  Enchanting, heartfelt, sincere, and magical are the only words I can use to describe  Breadcrumbs.

A modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”, Breadcrumbs is the story of Hazel and Jack.  Best friends their entire lives, they are inseparable.  That is until, something happens and Jack begins to change.  No one else notices anything different about Jack and when Hazel tries to point it out, she is only told that sometimes boys and girls grow apart as they grow up.  Luckily for Jack, Hazel doesn’t see this as a valid reason for his sudden coldness and distance.

Hazel finds herself drawn into a fairy tale world full of magic, witches, enchanted flowers, and spells.  I found myself utterly enchanted by Hazel.  She is a real (non-white!) girl experiencing the growing pains of early adolescence.  She is struggling to understand her parents’ divorce.  She has been forced to transfer to a regular public school rather than the creative arts schools she previously attended.  And she doesn’t fit in with new classmates but she is unwilling to compromise her self in order to fit in.

And the geekiness!  Ursu has created a love song for bookworms with Breadcrumbs.  Hazel is a book lover and she views the world through the lens of the books she has read and loved.  Harry Potter, Madeline L’Engle, Rebecca Stead, The Golden Compass, and many more in between.  I loved the obvious and not-so-obvious mentions of books that shaped my own childhood.  Breadcrumbs is just magical.

Highly, highly recommended.  This is being marketed as a middle grade book but I handed it to some of my sophomores and they are raving about it.  I think this is a book the will leap across the divides of gender and age.  It’s a book that should be in all classroom libraries.  The writing is poetic and brilliant and the story is one that wraps you up in its arms and doesn’t let you go until you reach the last page.  Get this one now!  You will want to own a copy before the Newbery Award is awarded this winter.  😉

Interested in winning a copy of Breadcrumbs?  Walden Pond Press has kindly offered a copy for one reader of the blog!  Simply comment on this post by 10/7 in order to be entered.  Be sure to leave your name and an email address where you can be reached in the event that you win!