Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Contemporary YA spotlight: A.S. King and Josh Berk signing recap

Here are two YA authors to add to your TBR pile/Christmas list: A.S. King and Josh Berk.

A.S. (Amy) King is the author of DUST OF 100 DOGS and the newly-released PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ. Josh Berk's YA debut is THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN.

Why people more important than us think you should pay attention!
- VERA DIETZ has received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist! Amy joked, "It's critically acclaimed, which is a really strange thing to say -- the critics have acclaimed it."
- HAMBURGER HALPIN also received a starred review from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and it was part of Kirkus Reviews' prestigious list of 2010 Best Books for Children and Teens!

Frankie and I had heard great things about their books -- but we wanted to know more! So when the authors came to our fave local(ish) indie, Chester County Book & Music Co., we made sure to be there.


PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ - Eighteen-year-old Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, or even the police. But will she emerge and clear his name? Does she even want to? (from Amy's blog)

THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN is the story of Will Halpin, an overweight deaf teen who spends his first year at a mainstream high school looking for love, failing Algebra, unraveling the school's social scene, trying to get invited to the greatest party ever … and, oh yeah, solving a murder. (from Josh's website)


Beyond being very funny, Amy and Josh had great insights into the business, so of course we took notes for you guys! Here's the rundown on main points of their talk:

Their paths to writing YA:
JOSH: Josh, like many authors, started off wanting to write the great American novel. His first novel had a dual POV -- half teen, half adult. Then while getting a Masters in Library Science degree, he took children's/YA lit classes and realized that what he was writing was more YA. HAMBURGER HALPIN was his third novel, and his first sold.

AMY: Amy wrote 7 novels over 15 years before becoming a published author. Most were adult novels with teen protagonists. Her agent sent novel #6 to a YA imprint, and she changed the MC's age from 23 to 19. It sold! Her seventh book was the first written solely for a YA audience.
Amy, Josh, Frankie and I

Agreeing to disagree:
- Amy's begun doing character sheets for recent novels. Josh hates them.
- Josh thinks query letters are pretty easy. Amy thinks they're really, really hard.

How they capture the teen voice:
JOSH: He listens in on kids' conversations. Plus, universal things never change. Slang, technology, and pop culture do, but the basic struggles and traumas are the same.

AMY: She looks back at herself as a teen. She had traumatic teen years, and part of her is still stuck there. She checks in with her nieces for pop culture references and slang.

While writing...
JOSH: Anytime he's stuck, he writes, "And then a bunch of crap happens." He jokes he'll name a book that one day.

AMY: Writes "add" in the places that need more detail.

The excellent cover for the paperback version,
available this June!
JOSH: He doesn't schedule writing time. He has a full-time job and young kids, so he writes whenever he can.... even in traffic! He has to turn off the internet to write.

AMY: Pay for Backspace! It's worth it. And she goes by Miss Snark's rule --- get 100 rejections before giving up.

Lessons learned so far:
- You must understand your genre. And publishing today kinda requires a literary agent.
- Your first book should always stand alone.
- Don't be afraid to follow your own rules. (Amy wrote a blog series called The Writer's Middle Finger about this: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- Josh and Amy agreed on one major thing --- as a writer, all you can 100% control is the quality of your next book. You have to go with the flow. Amy's first agent switched agencies, then she switched agents, and she's also switched publishers. Josh is with the same agent, but his agent has switched agencies. Editors leave, agents change, you can't control distribution of your book, etc. Write the best book possible, then go out and meet people to spread the word -- independent booksellers, librarians, teachers.

In conclusion, the signing was delightful -- I got a signed copy of both VERA DIETZ and HAMBURGER HALPIN (thanks, Joanne!), and I can't wait to read them!!!

Frankie with Joanne, one of our fave indie bookseller/writer/blogger friends!

And just in case we hadn't convinced you...... trusted book bloggers love these books!

Links with which to stalk support and learn more about our new author friends:
Blog / Website / Twitter / Buy PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ

Blog (which you should totally check out because Josh mentioned meeting us) / Website / Twitter / Buy THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN


  1. You were at this event and I was 20-something miles away, hunkered over an uncomfortable desk in my dungeon of a school library and slaving away at finals papers. Not fair!! Loved the recap though. I've met Josh in person before and he is definitely hilarious while also wise. Wish I could meet Amy one day!

  2. Steph Su, I'll be in Doylestown Bookshop this Saturday if you'd like to meet up! (Then Harleysville in January, if that's any closer.)

    Great recap, guys. It's always nice to know that we can spread laughter AND knowledge. :)

    Thank you so much for coming out!

  3. Lovely post, Donna! Thanks for taking such great notes since I had to hop up once in a while and help customers.

    Wish I was a "trusted blogger." :) In any case, back in October, I raved about Amy's book here:

    And you're welcome. You definitely need to read Josh's book too. Planning to review it soon myself.

  4. I've heard great things about Josh Berk's book. Lucky you that you got to go to his book signing.


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