Detention: Leon at Twelve

The following is a bit story about a character from the world of Birthmarked.

Rita tapped on the schoolroom window and Leon looked up.  She waved to beckon him out, frowning.  “Come on,” she was saying clearly.

He shook his head, but a moment later she poked her head in the doorway.  Leon was alone at his desk in the back, rewriting the words he’d spelled wrong that morning: Attached, barrel, embarrass, necessary, thorough, tomorrow, wrong.

“You’ll miss the race,” Rita said.

“I can’t come. Not until… Continue reading

New Cover for Birthmarked

Birthmarked will have a different cover when Simon & Schuster Children’s Books UK releases the novel in the United Kingdom next May. I love how the profile is a visual game that draws me in, and how the words turn different colors as the meaning comes clear.  I find it delicate and strong, lovely and ominous all at once. Yes!

Q. How’s Your Book Doing?

A. Now and then I wonder that myself.  I can always call up my editor and ask, but the sales numbers don’t mean much to me since I have nothing to compare them to, so I end up calling my agent for an interpretation.  He tells me not to worry, the numbers are “strong,” and since I trust his expertise, I find this reassuring. Even so, I suspect I’m not alone in wishing I had a better ball-park understanding of what goes on with young adult debuts, so… Continue reading

Behind the Scenes: A Query Letter

In May, 2008, I wrote to three dozen literary agents to see if any of them would be interested in taking on Birthmarked, then called The Baby Quota.  Here’s my initial email correspondence with Kirby Kim, who now represents me.

Dear Mr. Kim:

In a dystopian future, the world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside.  It’s Gaia’s job to turn over her quota of infants to the authorities within the wall, until… Continue reading

Tale of Two Covers

In the spirit of Frankfurt and the Book Fair this week, here’s a curious tale of translation for covers.  When the German translation of Birthmarked popped up on Goodreads, I was delighted to see the cover was a striking and mysterious image of two vivid profiles over a dark background.  I went right to an online translator to find that the new title “die stadt der verschwundenen kinder” meant roughly “The City of the Missing/Vanished Children,” and I was like “Oooh, that’s cool.”  It all fit my… Continue reading

Mapping Unreal Places

Map of Wharfton and the Enclave

A summer ago, in Minnesota, I sat in my Aunt Rosemary’s lodge overlooking Island Lake and prepared to draw the map of Wharfton and the Enclave.  My son Michael and niece Maura offered to help.  I had the places all in my head, visually, but it was harder to set them down than I expected.  Logistics intruded.  It was important, for instance, that Gaia would be unlikely to stumble upon Mace’s bakery on her first trip to the prison, but… Continue reading