Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tonight the Streets Are Ours blog tour starts today

Hard though this is to believe, Tonight the Streets Are Ours will be in bookstores exactly two weeks from now! So today we’re kicking off my blog tour. Here’s post #1:

Because my new novel is about a blogger, I’m doing something a little different for this tour. Not only are the bloggers asking me questions about my life and writing, but I am asking them questions right back. So this is a great opportunity for you not just to get excited about Tonight the Streets Are Ours, but also to learn more about some of the Internet’s best and sharpest YA tastemakers.

I’ll be tweeting each day’s guest blog post from @LeilaSalesBooks, and I’ll post some of them here, too. Enjoy!

This Song Will Save Your Life paperback release is coming!

This Song Will Save Your Life comes out in paperback on April 14. That is really soon!

This Song paperback cover FINAL 2015

Here are some things that paperback edition includes that the original hardcover does not:

1) An awesome new cover!
2) A revealing interview between me and my editor!
3) Brand-new Elise-curated playlists for everything from “Best songs for doing homework” to “Best songs to get over a breakup”!

Pre-order your copy now:
Barnes & Noble

I’ll be doing a couple events in California to celebrate the paperback launch:

3pm, Saturday, April 18: panel at the L.A. Times Festival of Books with Tommy Wallach and David Levithan, moderated by Aaron Hartzler

7pm, Monday, April 20 (a.k.a. my birthday): Not Your Mother’s Book Club discussion and signing at the Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.

Come celebrate with me!

Upcoming events and appearances for 2015

I already have a number of book events lined up for this year. I’ll announce even more events down the line, but for now I wanted to tell you everything I know. I would love to see you at any of these bookstores, libraries, and festivals!

Wednesday, March 18, 7pm
The Astoria Bookshop in Queens, New York

Launch party for Jenn Marie Thorne’s debut YA, THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT. Jenn and I will be in conversation, discussing how she wrote such a fantastic novel.

Friday, March 20, 3:55pm
The New York Public Library in New York, New York

Part of the New York City Teen Author Festival, I will be moderating a panel called “The Fame Game,” featuring the delightful YA authors Alison Cherry, Sarah Darer Littman, Maya Rock, Rebecca Serle, and Alecia Whitaker.

Saturday or Sunday April 18-19, time and day TBA
Los Angeles, California

I will appear on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Exact date, time, and topic of my panel to be announced in the next couple of weeks, so keep an eye out.

Monday, April 20, 7pm – a.k.a. my BIRTHDAY!
Palo Alto, California

Paperback launch event for This Song Will Save Your Life at Not Your Mother’s Book Club at Books, Inc.


Tuesday, September 15, 7pm
Brookline, Massachusetts

Boston-area launch party for my forthcoming YA novel, Tonight the Streets Are Ours, at Brookline Booksmith. September 15 is the very day the book comes out, so we will be celebrating intensely.

Thursday, September 17, 7pm
New York, New York

NYC-area launch party for Tonight the Streets Are Ours at McNally Jackson.

Whew. That is a lot. And watch this space, because there’s even more to come!

Happy Thanksgiving from me (and from the Mostly Good Girls)

In celebration of Thanksgiving week, I’m posting here the complete Thanksgiving chapter from Mostly Good Girls. I hope your Thanksgiving celebrations are much more enjoyable than Violet’s are here. If not, then may this post keep you entertained while you read it under the dining room table, or while you sit in holiday traffic. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving is a tough row to hoe

Thanksgiving is always a golden opportunity for my parents and me to sit in a car for four hours, battling our way through holiday traffic, until we eventually arrive at my Uncle Rick’s house in Cape Cod, where we are treated to overcooked turkey, limp carrots, and my aunt and uncle’s unwarranted bragging about their two sons.

Noah and David are the sons. Noah is 12 years old and David is a year older than I am. Their parents think everything their sons do is brilliant, even though the only thing Noah does is watch TV, and the only thing David does is be an asshole.

Uncle Rick is my father’s little brother. Katie theorizes that he has an inferiority complex from always being compared to my dad when they were growing up. “I’ve seen it all before,” she says wisely.

Whatever the deep-set emotional causes, Uncle Rick never misses a chance to point out how he is better than my dad. Sometimes he likes to talk about how he makes more money (because my dad is a professor, whereas Uncle Rick is a sell-out). Sometimes he likes to point out how his wife is a better cook than my mom (which is false but has never been put to the test, since we always celebrate holidays at Uncle Rick’s and never at our own house). Sometimes he likes to mention how he owns a purebred golden retriever, whereas my dad has no pets at all (the idea, I think, being that my dad is such an incompetent that he would be unable to keep a pet alive).

But mostly, Uncle Rick likes to mention how his sons are better than my father’s children (i.e. me). This line of commentary can take on many forms. Like when David became quarterback for his high school football team — “A first for this family,” Uncle Rick commented archly, like I should have tried harder to become a football quarterback at Westfield. Or, a couple years before that, Uncle Rick just couldn’t get over the fact that I had to have braces while David did not. “Tough row to hoe, eh?” he kept saying to me with evident delight. Coincidentally, Thanksgiving dinner that year consisted almost entirely of corn-on-the-cob and saltwater taffy.

That’s why this year I was thrilled when, after creeping along I-93 at approximately two miles an hour, we at last arrived at Uncle Rick’s and the door was opened by none other than 12-year-old Noah, sporting a brand-new pair of — yes, that’s right — braces.

“Hey, Noah!” I greeted him enthusiastically since, in the grand scheme of Uncle Rick’s household, Noah is a lesser evil. He grunted before darting back to the living room, so as not to miss any more precious seconds of television airtime. My parents and I hung up our own coats.

“Hello, hello!” Aunt Cynthia emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. “Rick!” she called into the living room. “They’re here!”

“We-e-ell!” Uncle Rick came into the front vestibule, too, and gave us all big hugs. I tried not to squirm against his fleshy gut. “The prodigal son, at last!” he said to my dad.

“You all must have gotten trapped in that horrible traffic,” Aunt Cynthia fluttered, which was just her passive-aggressive way of pointing out that we were late.

“You still driving that Toyota?” Uncle Rick asked Dad. When Dad nodded, Uncle Rick widened his eyes and exclaimed, “Really!” which was just his passive-aggressive way of pointing out that Dad hasn’t bought a new car within the past five years.

I knew the grown-ups would continue in this vein for a while, so I went to watch TV with Noah and the dog. Like I mentioned, Uncle Rick and Aunt Cynthia brag way too much about their sons; however, it is true that Noah is a champion television watcher. He has an uncanny sense for how long commercial breaks are, so he can effortlessly switch between a favorite program and a second-favorite program without ever missing a frame. Of course he has DVR, too, but he hardly needs it — he devotes maybe six hours a day to television watching, so it’s not like he ever “misses” a show because he’s out “doing something else.”

Eventually, Aunt Cynthia called us all to the dinner table. Noah moaned like his limbs were being slowly detached from his body without the use of anesthesia, but heroically he managed to turn off the TV, and we went into the dining room.

“I suppose I should ask David to come down here,” Aunt Cynthia said, looking up the stairs. “He’s been locked in his room all day, and I just hate to disturb him. Homework, you know. He gets so much homework.” She widened her eyes at my parents and me, as if David were the only person in the history of the world to have homework. I almost snorted in her face. Like, come on. I had three textbooks waiting in my parents’ car, not to mention an annotated Macbeth. I’d challenge David to a homework contest any day of the week. I had so much homework, I’d begged my parents to let me skip Thanksgiving this year to stay home and study. Then Mom asked if she could stay home, too, but Dad was like, “Oh, no. If I have to go through this, we all have to go through this.”

Once David came downstairs, Thanksgiving began in earnest. We went around the table and said what we were grateful for. Noah’s list included MTV, VH1, Fox, and SoapNet. Uncle Rick mentioned both his enormous salary, for allowing him to provide for his wonderful family, and his still-thick crop of hair (cue jovial laughter and tousling Dad’s bald patch). I said I was grateful for my family, but actually I am considerably more grateful for mint Milano cookies and highlighter markers.

After we all thanked God/ourselves/TV network execs, the conversation moved on to college admissions. “David has been working so hard on his applications,” Aunt Cynthia informed us all. “Haven’t you, sweetie?”

David shrugged.

“Where are you applying?” Mom asked politely. “Violet will be looking at colleges next year, of course, so I’m interested in hearing about your process.”

“I’m applying early to Trinity,” David said, sounding impossibly bored by the whole thing.

“Just like his old man!” Uncle Rick bellowed.

I glanced at Noah, hoping we could commiserate in hatred for his family, but no such luck. Noah had his iPod out under the table and was half-watching an old Simpsons episode as he methodically shoved mashed potatoes into his mouth.

“Trinity should be no problem for David,” Aunt Cynthia announced, “because he’s top of his class. He’s going to be valedictorian.”

Now, this claim could not have been true, since it’s my understanding that valedictorians are not selected in November of senior year but rather in, like, June. Even if it were true, I’ve seen David’s school, and let’s just say that being top of the class there would not require that much effort. I could probably do it even with massive brain damage. I decided not to share that with the family.

“What about you, Violet?” Uncle Rick asked. “Top of your class? Going to follow in your cousin David’s footsteps to valedictorianism?”

“Uh,” I said, looking at my dad for support. “Actually, we don’t have class ranks at Westfield. And we definitely don’t have a valedictorian.”

There is an old rumor — possibly started by Katie — that Westfield once tried having a valedictorian. They announced her name one week before graduation. Mysteriously, the next day, she turned up dead. The school asked the salutarian to take over delivering the valedictory speech. But the next day, just as mysteriously, the salutarian also died. So the school asked the girl ranked third to take over as valedictorian. But then she wound up dead, too. And on and on until, by the actual day of graduation, the valedictorian was actually the girl who had originally been ranked eighth. Fortunately she was going to Princeton in the fall, so it’s not like she wasn’t worthy of the honor.

Now, is this story true?

No. I think if there were a week in which seven out of fifty 17-year-old girls died, Westfield would not still have its good reputation. But this story is true at heart, and that is why we keep telling it.

I considered sharing this story with the Thanksgiving dinner table when my Uncle Rick said, “No class ranks? No valedictorians?”

“No,” I confirmed, and Uncle Rick narrowed his eyes, trying to figure out whether this made my school better or worse than his sons’.

“Why do you have to go to that special school, anyway?” David demanded.

There is no good answer to this question. People have asked me before — in fact, David asks me pretty much every Thanksgiving — and I still haven’t settled on a true yet uncontentious response. “Because my parents love me enough to spend $20,000 a year on my education” is not a good answer. Neither is, “Because I’m really smart.” And neither is, “Because in sixth grade the other kids teased me for being a ‘nerd’ and I cried all the time, so my parents sent me to a school where everyone is a nerd so that I would be happy.”

Just imagine what Uncle Rick would have to say about any of those statements.

Instead I said to David, “It’s a great education,” which is maybe a little snobby, but so what. I was annoyed.

“Don’t see what you need such a great education for.” Uncle Rick chuckled. He is very self-amused. “Your father’s got eight years more education than me, and what’d it get him? Nothing much!”

That did it. My parents lost it. It’s one thing for my aunt and uncle to criticize their car or their cooking or even their daughter, but to criticize the world of academia? Unacceptable. Like, step off, Uncle Rick.

“What did it get me?” My father balled up his napkin in his fist. “It got me knowledge, Rick. Knowledge is the most valuable human commodity. Perhaps you can’t understand: I am one of the foremost experts on Hemingway—”

“On who?” Uncle Rick said with a laugh, even though obviously he knows who Hemingway is. Everyone knows who Ernest Hemingway is; at least, everyone who’s related to my dad knows. Rick was just egging my dad on. And of course it worked.

“That’s it!” my father declared, throwing his napkin across the table, but not quite forcefully enough to hit anyone. It landed in the water pitcher. He stood. “We’re leaving. Girls, get your things.”

So Mom and I also stood up — we could not have been readier — but then Aunt Cynthia was all flapping hands and, “Oh! Oh! Rick!”

And Rick threw his arms out wide, like, “What’d I do?” and he shouted, “Relax! It was just a joke. I was just joking around. Wasn’t I just joking, kids?”

Noah and David nodded like zombies, though Noah’s eyes were still on the Simpsons and David had a turkey drumstick rammed so far into his mouth I expected him to choke.

“I know how seriously you take school,” Uncle Rick said to my parents and me. “I was only having some fun. Heck, school’s great! It’s not the most important thing, of course, but, well, it’s still great.”

We remained standing, waiting for my father to make a decision. Leave! I begged him silently. Let’s burn all bridges, leave in a huff, and never return!

My father sat down heavily. “Not a funny joke, Rick,” he said. “Pass the potatoes.”

Oh, Dad. You so owe me.

Since I was already standing, I took this as an excuse to escape briefly to the palatial marble bathroom. I pulled out my cell phone and texted Katie, “Today I am thankful that Thanksgiving comes only once a year.”

A moment later, she texted back, “My dad is already on his fifth beer of the day.”

Honestly it is a wonder that Katie and I turned out so normal.

When I dragged myself out of the bathroom and back to the dining room, Aunt Cynthia was serving corn on the cob. Noah waved her away, his eyes still fixed on the iPod beneath the table.

“Man,” I said to my little cousin, in what was far and away the best moment of the day. “Braces, huh? Tough row to hoe, isn’t it?”

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)

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!


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.

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!

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 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!