BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS

January 9th, 2006

There is so much book-related news today that I don't even know where to begin. First of all AVALON HIGH debuted at #3 on the New York Times Children's Chapter Book Bestseller List! So thanks, everybody!

SIZE 12 IS NOT FAT didn't make any lists, but it's selling really well, despite the fact that ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY gave it a C. Considering that SIZE 12 has gotten glowing reviews everywhere else, I think it can safely be assumed that that reviewer just had a bad day.

In other book news, I finished the sequel to SIZE 12, tentatively titled PHAT CHICK (tentatively, that is, until my editor/sales approves that title), and am just waiting to hear back about edits. Now it's time to move on to PRINCESS DIARIES 8, which is going to be big—REALLY big. So much happens in PD8 that—well, you'll have to wait and read PD7, then see if you can guess what happens in 8.

I've gotten in a bit of reading in between all the writing I've been doing. Here are some of the high (and one low) lights:


–The holiday season is over, but you still won't want to miss AN IDIOT GIRL'S CHRISTMAS, a cute collection of humorous holiday-theme essays by the hilarious and never-disappointing Laurie Notaro. Probably that reviewer from EW wouldn't like it, but anyone with a normally functioning sense of humor will.


–Haven Kimmel has a sequel to her excellent humorous memoir, A GIRL CALLED ZIPPY, in which we learn more about the lives of the people of Mooreland, Indiana (pop. 300. And no, I am from Indiana, but I had never heard of it). SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH (the title is a reference to the author's mother, who spent most of the first book on the couch, reading) is great so far, and there are a few things that already have me itching for a THIRD sequel.


–Jennifer Sturman is the chick-lit mystery author who wrote last year's excellent debut, THE PACT, and she now she has a sequel to it, THE JINX. It's a totally fun, stylish mystery, perfect for the bath and/or beach.


–If you want a laugh, I know where to look: YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH. No, I am not having a bat mitzvah (and if I were, you'd totally be invited). That's the name of a book. It's hilarious and sort of touching, but not in a goopy way, and I recommend it to everyone, not just bat mitzvah-aged girls. All the adults I've loaned my copy to have gotten a huge kick out of it, too.


–Occasionally I get accused of having a disorder called hypergraphia, which is a condition in which the afflicted person cannot stop writing. Most writers who put out more than a book a year get accused of having this disorder (like it's a bad thing).

So when I discovered that a Harvard MD had written a book about it, and writer's block, I got a copy and read it. THE MIDNIGHT DISEASE by Alice Flaherty isn't just a book about writing. It's about how our brains work. It's really good reading not just for writers, but for pretty much everyone. Dr. Flaherty even comes to the defense of workaholics, explaining that we workaholics derive more joy from working than we do from so-called “fun” activities, and should just be left alone and not made to feel so bad about our weirdness.

And for that, I am eternally grateful to her.

–Lastly, I did read one book I didn't like, but I'm not going to tell you what it was. I don't believe in trashing other people's books (unless of course they are the LEFT BEHIND series, which don't count because they are so stupid). Besides, this book I didn't like is very popular, and the last time I mentioned I disliked a very popular book (besides the LEFT BEHIND series, of course), everyone acted like I was crazy and sent me a million emails urging me to give the book “another chance,” which it so did not deserve.

But this new book I read was so hilariously bad (to me), that I HAD to find out if I was the only person on the planet who felt that way about it, so I launched an Internet search and finally stumbled across a like-minded reader, who mentioned that there is a term for the kind of character the author had created—a character who is totally perfect: everyone who meets her falls in love with her, and though she has one quirk, everyone considers it charming.

The term for this type of character was one I had never heard before—a Mary Sue, which Wikipedia describes as “an idealized stand-in for the author,” made famous by a Star Trek fan-fic featuring the “youngest and most brilliant Starfleet officer of all time, Lieutenant Mary Sue.” Basically, the writer has based a character on an idealized vision of herself (or himself, in the case of “Gary Stus,” the male version) and planted her (or him) in a story the author wishes she herself were starring in. While this may be fun for the author, it's not fun for readers, because we don't want perfect characters—we want likable characters, and perfect people aren't likable.

So, please, if you are writing a book, or even a fan fiction—no Mary Sues. I am begging you. If you need guidance, read YOU ARE SO NOT INVITED TO MY BAT MITZVAH, SHE GOT UP OFF THE COUCH, AN IDIOT GIRL'S CHRISTMAS, THE JINX, or THE MIDNIGHT DISEASE. I guarantee that if you follow the examples of these authors, you will not fall into the trap of the Mary Sue.

And sensitive readers like me will thank you. Heartily.

That's it for now.

More later.

Much love,

Meg