I'm very glad to be a part of readergirlz, a literacy project which encourages young women to read and discuss a wide variety of novels and to become active in their schools and communities. I maintain the readergirlz website and head up the postergirlz, the readergirlz' teen lit advisory council. I recently interviewed the divas about the 31 Flavorites project. This interview also ran in The Edge of the Forest, a children's literature monthly.
Little Willow: Who came up with the idea and name for 31 Flavorites?
Justina Chen Headley: I'm afraid the Headley clan is to blame for the craziness that is 31 Flavorite Authors for Teens! My husband was driving our family on this looooong road trip in the spring, and to keep him awake, brilliant conversationalist that I am, I told him about YALSA's Teen Read Week. On and on I blabbed about how readergirlz could help promote Teen Read Week since we have this massively growing group of avid teen readers plus a large network of authors and bloggers. I wasn't sure my husband was really tracking until he suggested that readergirlz feature 31 authors in 31 days. And then (possibly because I was starving), I blurted out: "31 Flavorite Authors!"
Fast forward to now: In addition to our own writing, the divas have been working literally around the clock launching 31 Flavorites - Dia creating logos and posters, Janet coordinating the calendars, Lorie Ann managing our MySpace and website. My divas love me.
Little Willow: What is the goal of 31 Flavorites, and how does it correlate with the readergirlz manifesta?
Justina Chen Headley: 31 Flavorite Authors is all about connecting teens to their favorite authors and adding another dimension of fun to reading. What better way to get teens excited about great literature than to give them a chance to talk to 31 of the most incredible YA authors today? Our partnership with YALSA creates the ultimate triumvirate of book geeks: librarians, readers and authors.
Every month, readergirlz features a fabulous book selected by our advisory council of bloggers, the postergirlz. The divas invite the author to chat online live once a month with readergirlz. 31 Flavorites is a supersized, uber-estrogened version of what we already do. Readergirlz exposes teens to YA lit, gets them talking about the books as it relates to their lives, and then inspires them to change the world.
31 Flavorites is going to be the world's biggest book club party!
Little Willow: Did you already know the YALSA powers-that-be, or was this the first time you teamed up?
Lorie Ann Grover: When readergirlz launched, the divas were invited to meet with the president of YALSA, Judy Nelson, in my own Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, Washington! Our presentation of the early concept of 31 Flavorite Authors to the PCL staff went so well, Judy arranged for Justina to meet with her again at ALA in Washington, DC -- along with YALSA's executive director and incoming president. Justina just happened to be attending the convention to pick up the Asian Pacific American Award for Literature for her novel, Nothing But the Truth (and a few white lies)! To our collective delight, YALSA agreed to partner with readergirlz on 31 Flavorite Authors.
Little Willow: How difficult was it to get authors involved with this project?
Janet Lee Carey: I was amazed at the response we got from all of our participating YA authors—bestsellers and newcomers alike. It's a testament to YALSA, really. All of us are passionate about getting teens to read for pure pleasure. And all of us are passionate about supporting YALSA's Teen Read Week.
Now, of course, the logistics of reaching everyone was a gargantuan project in and of itself. We reached some authors through their email, others through MySpace, and a few through their publicists.
Then I decided to take a few days away myself and ended up in a hotel in Leavenworth, Washington (which shall remain nameless) with a Neanderthal Internet connection. I was actually working behind the desk for a few hours in the hotel office as I tried to reach Carolyn Mackler! When I finally got web access in my room and was writing a thank you to Carolyn, I boasted, "One of our readergirlz is wild about your book, The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things!" And I hit send. It went to Carolyn. It also went to a nun in a Catholic Girls' School the readergirlz divas visited this year . . .
Now, try organizing the night each of our wonderful YA authors could chat! That was another challenge. But other than that, inviting the authors to 31 Flavorites was a piece of cake, or should I say a bowl of ice cream?
Little Willow: What are you currently reading?
Justina Chen Headley: I'm midway through the readergirlz December pick, Miss Spitfire, and its companion read, Shannon Hale's newest, Book of a Thousand Days. Both are breathtaking. Our readergirlz are in for a spectacular treat with these novels.
Lorie Ann Grover: I'm finishing up Melissa Kantor's novel, The Breakup Bible. It's delightful!
Little Willow: What are you currently writing?
Janet Lee Carey: I've started a new YA fantasy and am roughly 100 pages in. But I put that aside to revise The Dragons of Noor. Those who read The Beast of Noor will be glad to hear that a sequel is on the way. I'm very "inside" Noor just now and find it hard to come out into the "real" world to things like cell phones, computers, trains, planes, and automobiles . . . In Noor, horses, carts, sail boats, and on rare occasions, dragon rides, are the only means of transportation.
Lorie Ann Grover: I'm busy working on my novel Dark Doorways set in Korea outside an American military post in the 1980s. The work shares one girl's journey to understand what she experiences as she lives among prostitutes and under a real military threat.
Justina Chen Headley: I have post-partum manuscript depression. I just handed in my next novel that's due out around October 2008, called North of Beautiful, about a girl with an enormous port wine stain on her face. It's all about beauty and the boy who shows her how to see her own True Beauty. I have an idea for my next three novels, one of which is very very very gnarly. I'm not sure I have the guts to write it. (Oh, bad readergirlz diva! Gutsy girls, I need your support!)
NOTE: readergirlz diva Dia Calhoun was unable to participate in this interview because she was on a writing retreat, busily finishing up her next YA fantasy.
Little Willow: What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?
Lorie Ann: Oooh. It's definitely the Happy Birthday Cake mix at Cold Stone. I'm in love with sprinkles!
Janet Lee Carey: Pistachio Almond - any other green food aside from vegetables gives me the willies.
Justina Chen Headley: Heath Bar Crunch. Need I say more?
And if I got to be a flavorologist for readergirlz diva Dia, I'd create a Firegold ice cream for her - vanilla with apple pie and a huge kick of cinnamon.
How about you, Little Willow?
Little Willow: My favorite flavors of ice cream include Cream of Gold vanilla, chocolate chip cookie dough, cookies and cream, and strawberry. I don't have any ice cream in my freezer, though. I feed my mind with a wide variety of books.
This piece also ran in the October 2007 issue of The Edge of the Forest, a children's literature monthly.