Welcome to the online home for humorist and
young adult novelist Leila Sales, author of
Mostly Good Girls, Past Perfect, and
This Song Will Save Your Life.

News From Leila

Remembering Zilpha Keatley Snyder

When I was in middle school, I had a lot of trouble fitting in with my classmates. In hindsight I realize that many middle schoolers feel this way, but at the time I felt like I was the only one. It seemed like everyone else had meaningful friend groups and wore the right clothes and paid attention to gossip, and I was the weirdo who wrote stories in her notebook during class or read Babysitters Club books under her desk and raised her hand whenever the teacher asked a question.

But when I read Zilpha Keatly Snyder’s Libby on Wednesday, I didn’t feel like such a weirdo after all. Libby was like me: she was eleven years old and precocious, smart at school but didn’t understand social rules, and she was a writer, too.

Libby lived in an enormous old house (a dream of mine), where she got the entire top floor for her hobbies. She had rooms devoted to ballet and to various time periods that interested her. This also became one of my dreams. I wanted a room just for my My Little Ponies, so they could be forever spread out in a never-ending make-believe game. (In real life I had to return my ponies to their laundry-hamper home every two weeks, when the house cleaner came, so she could dust my room. In my Libby on Wednesday fantasies, there would be no cleaning ladies, and my pony room would be only one small corner of my enormous old house.)

Six or seven years ago, I was at ALA, and my friend Emily and I saw that Zilpha Keatly Snyder would be signing at the Simon & Schuster booth. We ducked out from the Penguin booth, where we were working, and quickly ran over to meet her. I told her my name and I said, “Without your book Libby on Wednesday, I would not have survived middle school.” Then I started to cry. I just stood there and sobbed. Emily had to take me away. I was really embarrassed at the time.

Today I read that Zilpha Keatly Snyder has passed away at the age of 87. I’m glad that I told her what her writing meant to me when I had the chance. That’s a memory that I think I’ll keep with me always.


(Zilpha Keatly Snyder photo from her PW obituary)

October 9th, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

announcing the paperback edition of THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE

Macmillan will be publishing the U.S. paperback edition of This Song Will Save Your Life on April 28, 2015, and this is what it’s going to look like!

9781250050748

The paperback edition will include an exclusive Q&A between me and my editor, and (most likely) a teaser excerpt from my next novel, Tonight the Streets Are Ours, which won’t be out until the fall.

What do you think of the new cover look? How does it stack up against the hardcover? Personally, I love it. I can’t stop staring at it.

September 8th, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

I’m writing new books!

I’m writing three new books, to be be precise. And as of today, I can tell you about them!

The first is tentatively entitled Tonight the Streets Are Ours, and it’s scheduled to be published by FSG in Fall 2015. It’s about a teen girl who becomes obsessed with a blogger in New York City, whose online writings dramatize his life as a brilliant young romantic. But when she sets out to track him down in real life, the person she finds both is and is not the boy his blog has led her to believe.

The second book is my first-ever middle grade. That means it’s geared at readers who are roughly 9 to 13 years old (though older readers should enjoy it, too). It’s also my first novel with fantasy elements. I’m so excited to be exploring a new genre and audience! The book is tentatively entitled Once Was a Time, and it’s scheduled to come out in Spring or Summer 2016. It’s about a love between best friends that spans time and place, telling the story of two girls who are wrenched apart when one time travels away from their home in war-ravaged 1940s England.

The third book is another YA novel with FSG, scheduled to be published in Fall 2016. I don’t know yet what it will be about… as soon as I figure that out, I’ll tell you!

Additionally, an audiobook of This Song Will Save Your Life is scheduled to come out this summer (but you can listen to an audio clip now, if you click on that link), and the U.S. paperback edition is scheduled for April 2015.

Please note that these titles and publication dates may shift later down the line. But the bottom line is: guys, there will be books!

April 18th, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

the thing about my brain that makes book events challenging

This week was the NYC Teen Author Festival, which is always a blast. It’s so much fun to get to see lots of my author and reader friends in one place, and it’s so inspiring to hear other writers discuss their craft and their new books. This year I attended Tuesday’s panel at the Jersey City WORD and the Saturday symposiums at the NYPL. I also spoke on a panel on Wednesday night, and I felt honored to be on a panel with writers whose work I admire so much. Finally, today was the blow-out Books of Wonder signing, which loads and loads of readers came to, and many of them said such nice things about my books, which made me feel great.

Even though this week was obviously so fun, I do find events like the Teen Author Festival to be stressful. And I wanted to take a moment here to explain why.

The reason is because I have a disorder called “prosopagnosia,” which is just a fancy word for face-blindness. And that is just a fancy way of saying that my brain doesn’t record and recognize faces in the way that most other people’s brains do.

Like everything else that happens in the brain, facial recognition operates on a sliding scale. Take, for example, attention spans. Some people have fantastically good attention spans. Most people’s attention spans aren’t fantastically good, but are sufficient. Some people have such poor attention spans that they are considered “disordered”; thus, the term “attention deficit disorder,” or ADD.

Facial recognition is the same way. Some people are amazing at it, like my high-school friend Emily. Emily can see somebody once on the subway and recognize him again two months later in another part of town. She can see an old classmate for the first time in two decades and recognize her instantly.

Most people aren’t as skilled at facial recognition as Emily. But, for the most part, they recognize a co-worker even if they run into her at the mall. If they’re introduced to a new person in the kitchen of a house party, they will recognize that person when they see her an hour later in the living room of that same house party. Stuff like that. I can’t do that. That’s what it means to have a facial recognition disorder.

If you’re interested in understanding more about how people with face-blindness figure out whom they are talking to, I recommend reading this webpage. I can reassure you here that I have a lot of ways to figure out who people are, based on context and haircuts and posture and all sorts of other clues.

And eventually I do learn who people are. There are some people with prosopagnosia who never learn to recognize themselves in the mirror. I don’t have that problem. I recognize my parents and my friends, even if I see them in a place I wouldn’t expect. When I meet somebody a number of times in one-on-one contexts, I learn his face.

But events like the Teen Author Festival are hard for me because I am seeing a lot of new faces all at the same time. And a lot of these faces look similar to me–i.e. white-skinned women with brownish hair. At my panel on Wednesday, I met a number of kind, complimentary readers. Some of them I re-met at the signing today. I didn’t recognize them. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t process our conversations, that their thoughtful words about my books didn’t resonate with me, that I didn’t pay attention to personal information they provided about themselves. On the contrary, I listen very carefully to the things readers tell me, and I take their words home with me. I just don’t associate those words and ideas with faces.

I love going to events where everybody wears name tags. I don’t always need to look at the name tags, but it makes me feel more comfortable to know that I can look if I need to.

I love doing signings where people in line write their name on a Post-It and stick it on the book’s title page, so I don’t have to ask, “Whom should I personalize this for?” and have them say, “Me, duh, your mom’s friend’s daughter; we’ve met like ten times, remember?”

If we’re at a book event where there are no name tags, and there are no Post-Its for you to write your name on, it never hurts to re-introduce yourself. I’d never be offended. If you say, “Hi, Leila, it’s so good to see you again! Belinda–we met at BEA,” then I can just say, “Oh my gosh, Belinda! It’s so great to see you again!”

I know it can sometimes be a nerve-wracking experience to meet an author. I remember the first time I met Dave Barry, who was (and still is) my idol–I thought I was going to throw up from nerves! I just didn’t want to say anything stupid to him, anything I would regret, and I didn’t want him to say anything that would disappoint me when I’d built him up so much in my mind.

We authors never want to be a disappointment. And I hate to think that I might ever disappoint a reader by not recognizing her, that I might ever make her think she’s not important enough to be on my radar. So I just wanted to put this out here, where all my readers can see it: you are important to me. And while I may not always remember your face, I will always remember you.

March 23rd, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (3)

March and April events in NYC

I have a few events coming up in New York over the next few weeks, and you are all invited! Details:

March 18, 6-8pm, Mulberry Street NYPL, 10 Jersey Street
I will be doing a panel as part of the NYC Teen Author Festival. I’ll be reading and chatting about rock ‘n’ roll and revelry along with Holly Black, Rachel Cantor, Cassandra Claire, Bennett Madison, Libba Bray, and Natalie Standiford. ALL-STAR LINE-UP, folks.

March 23, 2:30-3:15pm, Books of Wonder, 18 W. 18th Street
I will be signing copies of THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, along with about a zillion other authors. No reading, no Q&A, just a massive attack of YA authors signing their books. The full signing schedule is here.

April 1, 7pm, McNally Jackson, 52 Prince Street
My very dear friend and writing partner, Rebecca Serle, and I will be celebrating the launch on her newest novel, THE EDGE OF FALLING, with a conversation between the two of us, Q&A, book signing, and champagne. Details here.

Hope to see you there!

March 10th, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

Happy 50th birthday, Harriet the Spy!

Today Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, one of my all-time favorite books, turned 50 years old. In celebration, I wrote an article about the book and its creator for Al Jazeera America.

Harriet cover

An excerpt from the article:

I always scoff at children’s books that try too hard to shove morals down readers’ throats. Children are too smart for that. And that’s something else that made Fitzhugh one of the greatest writers of the genre. She wasn’t trying to teach kids to be good. She was just telling a story. There are many ways in which Harriet and her friends never learn their lesson, which made the book controversial when it was first published and has led to its banning in school systems since then. Consider, for example, this exchange:

“Hey Janie, if you were going to slit somebody’s throat, wouldn’t you do it in the dead of night?”

“I’d poison them.” Janie didn’t even turn around.

I bet you would, thought Harriet. “But, Janie, they’d just trace the poison.”

“Not the one I’ve got.”

“Did you make a new one?”

“Yes.”

You can read the rest of the piece here: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/2/25/harriet-the-spy-turns50.html.

Happy birthday, Harriet!

February 25th, 2014 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

Leila Sales’ holiday gift guide

As I think we all know by now, books make great gifts. Here’s proof:

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You may be wondering which books to put under your Christmas tree (or Hanukkah menorah, though frankly you’re about three weeks late to that). That’s why I’ve come up with this list of recommendations for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I edited all these books. I guess that makes me “biased”? But I acquired them because they’re excellent books. And then I worked with the authors to make them even more excellent. So, yeah: these are some of my favorite books right now. And I worked on them. It’s a win-win.

What to get for…

your five-year-old babysitting charge.

This book is tremendously funny, the story is engaging, the characters are a riot, and it’s good for boys and girls. The author wrote BOY AND BOT, and the illustrator also did the newest Kate DiCamillo book. I love this picture book to death.

your friend who likes contemporary YA.

UNTIL IT HURTS TO STOP is Jennifer Hubbard’s third contemporary YA novel. This one is about a teen girl who basically has PTSD from being bullied so severely during middle school. It’s really wise. And it has excellent make-out scenes, which is crucial.

your ten-year-old nephew who’s already read every Wimpy Kid book a hundred times.

You may know who Bob Balaban is, since he’s been in like a hundred movies. He’s also a really funny writer, and I get to edit his series about a neurotic boy-turned-giant mutant reptile.

ballet fans.

BECOMING A BALLERINA is like a modern-day version of one of my favorite books, Jill Krementz’s A VERY YOUNG DANCER. The photographer for this book went backstage at Boston Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker (which I went to every year when I was a child growing up in Boston), and she got gorgeous shots of the rehearsals and performances. I often dream of being a ballet dancer. I have no turn-out, though. That gets in my way.

friends who love a good mystery.

TOKYO HEIST is a modern-day art heist mystery set in Japan. (I guess the title kind of gives that away…) I’ve never been to Japan– the only place in Asia I have ever been was a debate tournament in Kuala Lumpur– but this book makes me want to explore.

your ten-year-old sister.

RED THREAD SISTERS is a contemporary middle-grade about a girl who’s adopted at the age of 11 from her Chinese orphanage and is brought to America, where she has to adjust to going to school, speaking English, and being part of a family. When I was a kid I loved adoption books– I used to go to the library and look up “adoption” in the card catalog and check out everything that was available. So I love that I grew up and got to edit an adoption book of my own!

Okay, those are some of my holiday gift recommendations. What are yours? Or which books are you hoping to get as presents this year?

December 19th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Song Will Save Your Life comes out today – plus, a contest!

My new novel, This Song Will Save Your Life, comes out in the United States today, September 17, 2013! To celebrate, I’m running a contest. Here’s how it goes:

Take a photo of yourself with a hardcover copy of the book. Tweet the photo to @LeilaSalesBooks by the end of the day on Tuesday, September 24, 2013, and you could win a signed copy of any one of my books, plus I’ll make you a custom mix CD. The more fun and interesting your photo is, the more likely it is to win… so start photographing, and start tweeting!

I’m so excited to bring this book into the world. I hope you love reading it.

September 17th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

This Song Will Save Your Life launch events – Fall 2013

My new novel, This Song Will Save Your Life, comes out on Tuesday, September 17! I am so excited to get to share this book with the world. Fortunately, I’ll get to share it with the world through a lot of tour dates. Here are the events I have scheduled. Come say hi!

-Tuesday, September 17, 6:30pm, WORD in Brooklyn, NY

-Sunday, September 22, 2:00pm, the Brooklyn Book Festival in Brooklyn, NY

-Tuesday, September 24: 7:00pm, Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA

-Wednesday, September 25, 7:00pm, Wellesley Books in Wellesley, MA

-Thursday, September 26, 7:00pm, Paramus Barnes & Noble in Paramus, NJ

-Friday, September 27, 4:00pm, Books & Co. in Dayton, OH

-Saturday, September 28, 11:15am and 2:20pm, the Austin Teen Book Festival in Austin, TX

-Sunday, September 29, 4:00pm, A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, CA

-Monday, September 30, 7:00pm, Changing Hands in Tempe, AZ

-Tuesday, October 1, 7:00pm, Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, CA

-Saturday-Sunday, time TBD, October 26-27, the Texas Book Festival in Austin, TX
 
 
The September 24 – October 1 dates are part of Macmillan’s Fierce Reads tour, so you’ll get to see not only me, but also Alexandra Coutts, S. A. Bodeen, and Marissa Meyer.

The September 17 date is my big launch party. It starts at 6:30pm with a reading, Q&A and pizza at WORD. Then we’ll walk about 20 minutes down the road to No Lights No Lycra, an early-evening, alcohol-free, all-ages dance party for which I will be providing the playlist. No Lights No Lycra will end by 9:30pm. It is a Tuesday, after all. Come dance with me! RSVP here.

If this isn’t enough to get you excited, watch the book trailer, which was just released last week:

Are you ready for this, or what?

August 24th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)

summer writing songs

This weekend is our third annual writers’ retreat! Avid LeilaSales.com readers may recall the time we went on a writing retreat to Copake and had a dance party in our living room and/or the time we went on a writing retreat to Fire Island and gambled on hermit crab races. This time around we are in the Berkshires — “we” being Lauren Oliver, Jess Rothenberg, Rebecca Serle, Courtney Sheinmel, Lexa Hillyer, and Emily Heddleson.

So far today I have swum in the backyard pool, drunk a chocolate milkshake, lost a game of croquet, and written 1,500 words of a new YA novel.

Obviously all this writing requires some SUMMER WRITING MUSIC. Just in case you, too, are doing some SUMMER WRITING, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite albums for that purpose. SUMMER WRITING MUSIC needs to be a) summery (duh), and b) chill enough to write to. Here’s what I like:

What are some of your favorite summer writing songs? I have a lot more summer writing to do and would love some new recommendations!

July 14th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)