Pretty Sweet News IV: Sex & Violence named a CYBILS Young Adult Fiction finalist





Figure 1. The Cybils = Children & Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards

Figure 1. The Cybils = Children & Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards


The Cybils are a very cool literary award, I think, because they are run by book bloggers who seek books that “combine the highest literary merit and ‘kid appeal.'” This goal hits the sweet spot I like as a reader myself: a story that is literary but also readable, one I can imagine a kid with ADHD, for example, reading and enjoying.

(ASIDE: I had a kid with ADHD read Sex & Violence prior to submitting it for publication, in fact. This kid is my nephew and godson and he’s read only two books his entire high school career (mine and Divergent). The only reason he read my book is because I printed him off a chapter at a time, telling him to stop coming over for the next chapter when he got bored. It was a kind of test to see if I could sustain his attention with the plot. I wonder if I should hire him out sometimes, but he’s not really into reading. Also, he’s never read the book since I revised it. This is nothing he loses sleep over, I assure you.)


Figure 2. Sid, my non-reading nephew, who is very excellent in other ways, however

Figure 2. Sid, my non-reading nephew, who is very excellent in other ways, however


Anyway, I’m very proud to be named a finalist and appreciate the work the people behind the Cybils do. The judges and panelists are teachers, librarians and bloggers (sometimes all three) who love books and love talking about books with others. And if this world needs more of anything, it’s people who love books.

I want to live in a world where everyone reads for pleasure, no matter if their job is intellectual or academic. Kids like my non-reader nephew just haven’t found the right book yet, I’m convinced, and it’s people like the ones who run the Cybils awards who help them find it.




Matilda Part I

Figure 1: Matilly, age 6, heading for swimming lessons

Being that my girl turns ten in two days, I am thinking I should mark this. A decade of Matilda.

Here is one little story of her that pleases me so much.

My sister and I took Matilda to Target a couple days ago. She loves shopping, see, and she loves toys and she loves to tell me all the things she wants. This is not the thing that I want to note, it just makes her my child and a girl in America and whatever else.

We were in the stationery/card aisle and a pack of college girls wearing U of M swimming/diving jackets walked by. Like, big giant amazon swimmer girls, all blond. This Target we were at is always full of college kids. Anyway, my sister said, “Hey, Tilda. Those girls? Those girls are swimmers in college. They are even better swimmers than the ones in high school. Even better than Sid.

Sid = her older cousin who swims for his high school team and kicks ass at 500 freestyle and also can drive a car and always makes her laugh, ergo, God.

Anyway, so what I did after my sister said that was dart away, because I knew what would happen next and Jesus, I am such a wimpy introvert. My sister came and found me a minute later.

“She’s talking to those girls!” Kristin said. “She just bellied right up to them and told them she’s a swimmer, too. And now they’re asking her what team she’s on and her best strokes and stuff! I can’t believe her!”

I shook my head. “Of course she was gonna do that,” I said. “You didn’t know that? She’s a total Adrian like that. She’s always barging up to strangers and striking up conversations. It totally freaks me out.”

“I know!” my sister said. “But it’s totally awesome.”

Of course it is awesome. It’s pretty cool to have a kid who can do things that you find unbelievably difficult. A kid that you admire. And that is just one way I admire her.

On My Suburban Wonderland

So, on our street we have that one house where there’s a couple who hate kids and you can’t even breathe on their lawn and they are assholes and nobody likes them. It’s a man and a woman and we refer to them as “Dick” and “Bitch.”

As in: “Oh no, Pablo’s running straight for Dick and Bitch’s house to crap! Stop him!”

Anyway, what fuels life for Dick and Bitch is one part Miller Lite, one part cigarettes and one part bitterness. Bitch is the kinda lady who gets home from her job (she’s probably, like, the manager of Service or Parts at a car dealership, and you can just imagine her being a stickler about rules and everyone counting down the days until she retires) and lights a cig and then gets on her cell phone and stomps around her yard watering all her perfect plants. She, like, HATE-waters them, though, because she’s not gliding about her lawn in a relaxed way, sighing and barefoot, but in a way that shows she kind of HATES the plants for requiring all the goddamn water.

Then she goes inside and gets loaded with Dick, who hasn’t had a job in years. He also hasn’t had any teeth in years.

Bitch only then comes outside if one of Sid or Owen’s* wiffleballs lands in her perfect grass. (Which I’m surprised isn’t covered in land-mines.) Then she launches out holding her Miller Lite to bitch her face off.

After Bitch is done, well, BITCHING, Dick sometimes slithers out when he’s fully in his cups to apologize for the missus and Sid and Owen sit there and marvel at how he can speak with no teeth while my brother-in-law Jeff stands in the background and waits for Bitch to come back out so he can tell her what-for. Jeff doesn’t tolerate Bitch’s bitchiness when it comes to his sons.

Anyway, they suck and are fuckfaces but that’s not the story. The story is that Sid fell asleep on the sofa on Superbowl Sunday and was woken up at 4 am by ambulance lights flashing through the window. He looks to see Dick being wheeled out on a stretcher. Then the ambulance beat it and Bitch went and followed it in her car.

(Bitch’s car is a WHITE sport utility vehicle that she washes every week. Of course it is, you’re saying.)

My sister calls me up the next morning.

“Did you hear what happened to Dick and Bitch?” she asks. Then tells me what Sid saw, reports that Bitch and her white SUV have returned home, sans Dick. Then she suggests that Adrian and me should keep our eyes open and see if we can get the scoop. She thinks Dick maybe had a heart attack. I wonder if Bitch just shot him dead.

“But then she would be arrested, right?” my sister asks. “I would have gone over there to ask if he was okay but I don’t know her name.”

I told her that that’s what you get when you’re the Neighborhood Dick & Bitch. Nobody knows your real name or bothers to ask if your husband dropped dead.

The story might end there, with some moral about ‘being neighborly’ and blah. Except, I’m a pretty indifferent neighbor and don’t really do much to foster community beyond the people I know or am already related to. I’m a big fan of benign indifference when it comes to my neighbors and I work at it really hard. Our houses are very close together, you see.

But! Then my extroverted husband was outside shoveling snow and stuff and he somehow ran into Dick, who was miraculously recovered and was also shoveling snow. Of course, Adrian bellied right up to Dick and got the whole story, which was some garbled nonsense about him having a fever and passing out in the bathroom – Huh? How’d That Happen? – and then?


Then he actually discovered their True Names.

*pause for reverential cooing*

Which I will not reveal, lest the universe crack open or Hellboy’s horns grow back to full strength.

*Sid & Owen = nephews, age 17 and 13, respectively

Matilda & Me: Stuff We Like

Matilly with her Monster High School play set on Christmas

– Mad Libs

– James Marshall’s George & Martha books

– owls

– One Direction

– cookies

– when Adrian fixes all our broken stuff (toasters, Monster High dolls, cars, bicycle baskets, etc.)

– hippos

– the sound of Pablo crunching through his dogfood in the morning

Once Upon A Time

– getting mail

– LUSH bath bombs

– berries

– black beans

– her cousin/brother Owen

– skinny jeans

– polar bears

Groovy Girls

– LaLaLoopsy dolls

– Adventure Time

– taking very long hot showers

– not having to be anywhere or do anything

– blank journals & notebooks

– hammocks

– her cousin/brother Sid

– painting things

The Iron Giant

– when Pablo gets the hiccups

– pink grapefruit

– oranges

– going to Target

– Snapple

High School Is A Serious Thing…

Sid was telling me the other day about this geometry test he took, because he had a bunch of formulas written up on his arm. I didn’t even want to know if that’s cheating because I secretly think it doesn’t matter because I hated my geometry teacher and have used geometry about four times since 10th grade myself and I know Sid will never be an engineer or a nuclear physicist but probably a phy ed teacher or a police officer or join the Marines, so who gives a shit about geometry? Certainly not me.

And I’m not alone, clearly. But that’s not the point of the story.

“There was this kid during the test who was sitting there, leaning back with nothing on his desk,” Sid explains. “And the teacher comes up and says, ‘Where’s your test?’ And the kid goes, ‘Oh, it’s in the garbage.'”

This pleases me so much, I almost wish I taught in a high school again. Except for then, I’d have to give a shit about the kid’s failure and lack of STEM education and the tyranny of low expectations and his dumb parents calling me to bug me and what does that say about The Youth Today and before you know it, all the goodness is sucked right out a situation where a kid saying something so balls-out and brazenly is really quite amazing and humorous and don’t you want to know that kid? Don’t you want to know how he got to that point, where he could say that to a teacher’s face and smile?

But I can’t think that and be a good role model at the same time. So it’s no high school teaching for me.