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.
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.
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?”
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:
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.
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)
response to the Boston Marathon attacks
I wrote a response piece to Monday’s attacks on Boston, my hometown. You can read the piece on the Huffington Post, or I’m pasting the full text below.
My loved ones in Boston are all okay; I hope yours are, too.
Patriot’s Day has always been my favorite American holiday.
Only someone who grew up in Massachusetts would say that, since most people in the rest of the country aren’t aware that Patriot’s Day is a holiday. But in Massachusetts, it’s a big deal. For my entire childhood, we would get the third Monday in April off from school, so we could go cheer on the marathon runners.
Marathon Monday often coincided with my birthday, so for many years I would host a slumber party on Sunday night. Then on Patriot’s Day my sleep-deprived friends and I would head down the road and sit along Commonwealth Avenue to hand out cups of water to the runners and gorge ourselves on birthday cake.
I remember hearing explosions the night before my eighth birthday — not the kind of explosions that happened this week, but the other kind; the good kind. I crawled out of my sleeping bag and went to look out the window, and I saw a sky filled with fireworks. “They’re fireworks for your birthday,” my mother told me, but of course they weren’t. They were fireworks for the Boston Marathon.
Boston is a beautiful, grand, historic, sensible city. The most beautiful, I think, but I know that I am biased, and anyway it’s not a competition. Still, it’s hard to imagine a city more beautiful than Boston in the spring, when the dogwoods are in bloom, the Charles River is glittering in the sun and our few skyscrapers stand triumphant against the sky. Specifically, it’s hard to imagine a city more beautiful than Boston on Marathon Monday, when the streets are filled with people of all ages, pouring out their support.
I find it impossible not to cry at the Marathon, even on a happy day, when it goes the way it’s supposed to. The power of watching thousands of strangers streaming past me, achieving this extraordinary feat of human endurance and strength. Every year, it brings me to my knees. Personally, I can’t run for more than 15 minutes. But I can watch strangers run for hours.
And when you add in the reasons why people do it — I mean, you’d need a heart of steel not to cry. I’ve seen young men running alongside their aging fathers, matching them step for step; I’ve seen women running with shirts or hats honoring friends who died from AIDS; I’ve seen cancer survivors; I’ve seen amputees; I’ve seen some of the world’s finest living athletes. And the city gathers around them to call out their names and race numbers, to hand them orange wedges, to keep them going. This is a responsibility you have, as a Bostonian. I took it very seriously as an eight-year-old. I still do.
Nowadays, I’m usually not in Boston for the marathon. I moved to New York City six years ago, which is also a beautiful city, in its own way, but it’s different. New York is big. A lot goes on here, all the time. New York has its own marathon, but it’s easy to ignore or forget; this city is so big that a footrace involving thousands of people and spanning more than 26 miles is pretty easy to just not pay attention to. Boston isn’t that way. There are a million New Yorks co-existing at all times: uptown, downtown, poor New York, rich New York, Chinatown, Little Italy, hipster New York, yuppie New York, Broadway, Staten Island (which I hear is part of New York). But there is only one Boston.
I remember where I was on the September 11 bombings, of course. I was at my high school in Boston, about a mile from Copley Square. And I remember thinking (because these are the things you have to tell yourself, to feel safe), “That happened in New York because New York is dangerous. I’m glad I live in Boston instead.” But what I’ve learned as I’ve grown up is that anything can be dangerous, these days: office buildings or movie theaters or elementary schools or finish lines.
That’s a terrible thing to have to learn.
It’s a cruel thing to set off explosions in a public place, always. Everybody knows this. It’s a cruel thing to do to people who may have just completed the greatest accomplishment of their lives, to people who are out today to honor or support a loved one. It’s a cruel thing to do to so beautiful a city on so beautiful a spring day. The only explosions should be fireworks of celebration. That’s how it’s been for 115 years, and that’s how it should be forever and ever, for generations of children to come.
April 17th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)
NYC Teen Author Festival
The annual NYC Teen Author Festival is next week! This is my third year participating in the Festival, but my first year speaking on one of the NYPL panels. And what a panel it is, too. Here’s the listing:
Friday March 22, Symposium (42nd Street NYPL, Berger Forum, 2nd floor)
2:10-3:00: He Said, She Said
moderator: David Levithan
I mean, how good is that lineup?!
What’s going to happen at this panel is super-secret, but I can reveal one thing about it: I’m going to be writing something completely new for it. In fact, all the authors on this list will be writing and sharing new pieces. If that doesn’t make you come out, I don’t know what will!
Hope to see you there or at one of the other stellar events next week. You can find the full schedule here.
March 15th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)
This Song Will Save Your Life cover reveal
Yesterday MTV.com’s Hollywood Crush blog exclusively revealed the cover for my third novel, This Song Will Save Your Life! I love this cover and am so excited to share it with you here.
For the cover reveal, I created an indie rock and britpop Spotify playlist to soundtrack the book. You can listen to it here.
Here’s a synopsis of the story:
You think it’s so easy to change yourself.
You think it’s so easy but it’s not.
Elise Dembowski is not afraid of a little hard work. In fact, she embraces it. All her life, she’s taken on big, all-encompassing projects. When she was eight years old, she built her own dollhouse. When she was thirteen, she taught herself stop-motion animation. And when she’s fifteen, she embarks on the biggest, and most important, project of them all: becoming cool. Except she fails. Miserably. And everything falls to pieces.
Now, if possible, Elise’s social life is even worse than it was before. Until she stumbles into an underground dance club, and opens the door to a world she never knew existed. An inside-out world where, seemingly overnight, a previously uncool high school sophomore can become the hottest new DJ sensation. Elise finally has what she always wanted: acceptance, friendship, maybe even love. Until the real world threatens to steal it all away.
In a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, Leila Sales delivers an exuberant novel about identity, relationships, and the power of music to bring people together.
This Song Will Save Your Life comes out September 17. I can’t wait for you to read it!
March 9th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (1)
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
I just finished reading Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which I hadn’t heard about before it totally cleaned up at this year’s ALA Youth Media Awards. I wanted to share with you a line I liked before returning the book to the bookshelf:
“You and Susie going to a party?”
“Don’t you get tried of parties?”
“Don’t be stupid. I’m seventeen, you idiot. Of course I don’t get tired of parties.”
February 14th, 2013 in | Permalink | Comments (0)
everyone’s a critic, and most people are DJs
As you may know, my next novel, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE (coming out this fall) is about a 16-year-old girl who becomes a DJ sensation. Writing this book made me even more interested in DJ and nightlife culture than I already was, so tonight I took a class at the Brooklyn Brainery about the history of the DJ.
Do you want to know one of the things we learned in this class? That the world’s first radio DJ was 16 years old at the time! His name was Ray Newby, and in 1909, he became the first person to play a record on the air.
Here he is years later (in the mid-60s, I believe), speaking about his accomplishment on TV:
This is so cool for me. I love knowing that my protagonist is just one in a long line of teen DJs!