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ALICE BLISS Blog Tour Kickoff – Q & A with Laura Harrington and Giveaway
Aug 15th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

Alice Bliss is the novel for our generation. Like Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Ann Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl are classics from past centuries, Alice Bliss is destined to be a classic of the twenty-first century.

“If a novel could have a heartbeat, Alice Bliss would have one. If an author could capture a slice of America’s soul, Laura Harrington succeeded in doing so!” Liza Wiemer

For Goodreads summary: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9816578-alice-bliss

WhoRuBlog is the first of fourteen blogs sharing interviews, reviews, guest posts, and giving away ALICE BLISS. Please see the the post below this one for the list of all participating blogs & dates.

GIVEAWAY: Enter to win a copy of Alice Bliss – US only.

 So easy –

Post a comment below – 2 entries. Tweet and/or post on Facebook – 1 entry each (let me know). Twitter follower https://twitter.com/lizawiemer or Facebook follower  http://www.facebook.com/liza.wiemer – 1 extra entry each. Follow Laura Harrington on Twitter https://twitter.com/LaurHarrington or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/LauraHarringtonLH 1 extra entry each. GIVEAWAY ENDS: WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22, 8PM CST, Winner is Christie K. (MORE OPPORTUNITIES TO WIN – LOOK AT POST BELOW THIS ONE!)

ALICE BLISS is a People Magazine “People Pick” with 4 out of 4 stars.

ALICE BLISS: “The Best Books of the Summer” Entertainment Weekly.

ALICE BLISS has been selected for the Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program.

ALICE BLISS: School Library Journal‘s “Best Books of 2011” in the category “Adult Books for Teens.”

ALICE BLISS Listeners’ Top Book Picks for Books of Summer on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook.

ALICE BLISS chosen “Book of the Week” by Stylist Magazine in the UK.

Massachusetts Library Association “Must Read” for 2012

Nominated for the 2012 Alex Award

ALICE BLISS is a Richard and Judy Summer Book Club Pick in the UK

 

Take Five Q & A with Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss

Q:  Alice faces some turbulent and passionate moments with two different young men. Although this IS NOT a love triangle story, there is still a question as to whether Alice might eventually choose John over Henry. What qualities in a young man do you think would suit Alice and do those fit John or Henry best?

A:  First of all, Liza, I have to compliment you on asking me some of the best questions I’ve ever been

Laura Harrington, award-winning playwright, MIT professor, and author of ALICE BLISS

asked about Alice Bliss. You’ve really made me think about and explore some of the deeper issues and ideas in the book.

You’ve asked a better question than simply “Henry or John,” but I think I need to explore each choice to answer which qualities might suit Alice best, if that’s even possible.

Alice has history with Henry. They really know each other on many levels: as children, as young adults; they have been present for many of the key moments in each other’s lives.  Henry is also an artist with many talents: he is a gifted pianist and also plays the clarinet.  He reads and thinks deeply, he has the makings of a fine student.  He has compassion, he has empathy, and he is honest about his own confusion, which is never easy. He is true to himself, even if that means being labeled negatively in high school.  And, to my mind, he has one of the absolute essential qualities: a sense of humor.

John is more of a mystery. And isn’t that part of the appeal?  John is two years older – more mystery, more appeal. He is drawn to Alice – why? What’s that initial spark? And can it be trusted? Is he drawn to her because of how she looks? Because she carries herself a bit differently? Because she’s a bit of an iconoclast?  (All external qualities.) We see that initial attraction deepen as they actually get to know each other and then bond over a missing parent.  And then he enlists, which on the one hand makes him honorable and very much like Matt; and on the other hand presents Alice with the potential of losing another loved one to the war.

Do we make our choices with our heads or our hearts? In the book, following the most wrenching, painful, impossible moment in her life, Alice chooses Henry. This is a strong choice and a true choice and a choice that will give her strength rather than add to her sense of vulnerability.  It is also a choice that reveals that she has a strong sense of herself. She risks true intimacy in this moment, which is so full of hope.

Q: Alice often has difficulty dealing with her mother Angie. Angie can be self-absorbed, careless, thoughtless, neglectful. Alice often is left to take care of her younger sister Ellie and it’s not easy. What is your best advice to young adults who might find themselves in a similar parent/child relationship?

A:  I think there are many young adults who are dealing with this situation; many young adults and children, too, who are coping with very adult problems and issues.  If one parent is missing, the remaining parent often needs to lean on the oldest child, whether the parent is missing due to illness, divorce, military deployment, or any other reason. My best advice is this – reach out to the other people around you for solace or support or help with a task or a job.  That list that Matt asks Alice to make with him before he leaves – who can you call on if you need someone – we all need a list like that.  It’s important to remember when you feel yourself hesitant to ask for help that most people like to be asked, most people want to help.

Q: What is one important life lesson you’ve learned that could be helpful for other young adults? Please explain.

A: My dad didn’t give me an actual compass, the way Matt does. But he sure gave me an internal compass.  What continues to amaze me is that he did it almost entirely without words, purely by example.  The life lesson is this: When I pay attention to that compass – you could call it your conscience or your inner voice or your deeper sense of knowing – I am never led astray.  When I ignore it, when I don’t listen to the small voice inside of me, I always regret it.  This is true in my personal and my professional life. 

Q:  You have fantastic minor characters. One in particular is Mrs. Piantowski, a woman with eight kids who bakes bread for Alice’s grandma’s café. What is it about Mrs. Piantowski that makes her have a minor, yet important role in Alice’s personal growth?

A:  I vividly remember getting a glimpse into other ways of living when I was a kid. I had one friend whose family was way outside of our small town norm. The father was a French horn player in the Symphony, which meant that he was around during the daytime, unlike every other father. And he practiced every day. Hearing that beautiful haunting horn was far beyond my usual experience.  There were six kids, I think, they all played an instrument and they dressed a little differently.  They ate food that seemed exotic to me; they seemed freer.  We had tremendous freedom to play at their house. Not so many rules. 

For Alice, Mrs. Piantowski is mysterious and different; different kind of house, family organization, rules. And she seems to be a different kind of mother. Plus, she’s a  baker! A lover of bread. The staff of life. What could be more essential, more nurturing than that? I think Alice is hungry for some of the more traditional nurturing you can get from your mom, at the same time she is pulling away from or rejecting those needs in herself that are now starting to feel childish. But it’s safe to observe those things, to experience those hungers at Mrs. Piantowski’s.  And I think holding baby Inga – both when she picks up bread – and then later in the book, when there’s a moment that is truly “full circle” – is a very special gift of comfort for Alice.

Q:  Gardening is an important part of Alice Bliss. What is it about gardening that you decided to make it an important metaphor and theme of the novel?

A:  I wrote Alice Bliss the year after my father died and my love and grief for my dad inform every page.  That’s my father’s garden in the book, his apple trees, his grape arbor. I hate to admit it, but I worked beside him grudgingly.  When I was Alice’s age, I had little patience for gardening or canning. or my father’s measured, meticulous way of going about every task. But the lessons I learned at his side – which were largely unspoken – continue to be a daily part of my life. 

Q:  Alice doesn’t seem to care what other people think about her, especially when it comes to appearance, activities, friends. But it’s not because she’s defiant. It’s because she possesses confidence in herself. She embraces her individuality. This is so contrary to a lot of young adults who want desperately to fit in. What can others learn from Alice about embracing individuality?

A:  What a brilliant question – because it is THE question most of us struggle with. Can I be my true self even if it means not fitting in?  And it’s a compelling question for all ages, I believe, as you can be faced with this issue at any point in your life.  I think I can answer your question about Alice embracing her individuality best by talking about where her sense of identity comes from.  If your sense of identity comes solely from your peers and your relationships at school, it can make you terribly vulnerable.  And it is tempting to jettison or undervalue the other relationships in your life when peers become paramount.  But it’s those other relationships and those other activities – inside and outside of the family – that allow Alice to feel free to be who she is.  In writing the book, I was trying to give Alice the tools to survive the losses that she’s faced with. Those tools are: connection to family, including extended family (Gram and Uncle Eddie), connection to her community (working at The Bird Sister’s Café, knowing Mrs. Minty, getting to know Mrs. Piantowski, the baker), connection at school (even though she’s unraveling academically and her best friend abandons her, she dares to try something new – track – and connects to a teammate and a coach).  But this question has made me realize that those tools will help Alice meet the challenges she is faced with AND help her be who she truly is. 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON LAURA HARRINGTON: 

Laura Harrington is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and MIT professor. Her debut novel, ALICE BLISS, was published by Pamela Dorman Books, Viking/Penguin.

http://www.lauraharringtonbooks.com/

https://twitter.com/LaurHarrington

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2101135.Laura_Harrington

http://www.facebook.com/LauraHarringtonLH

 

BEA & NYC YA Author/Blogger Rooftop Party Highlights & Giveaway
Jun 10th, 2012 by Liza Wiemer

It all started with this:

 

 

 

 

 

I hadn’t planned on going to BEA (Book Expo America), but Jeremy’s tweet got me thinking. So, I talked to my husband Jim about it. Without any hesitation, he said that of course I had to go. I contacted Nili, one of my many cousins who live in NYC, and asked if I could stay with her. That led to one simple thought: Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a party with YA authors and bloggers?

That thought led to action. I contacted Nili about renting a space in her apartment building, which turned out to be the glass enclosed rooftop solarium on the forty-second floor of her building. I had never seen the space, but I could imagine how spectacular the view would be – The Statue of Liberty, Manhattan, the Hudson River, Hoboken, NJ. Nili didn’t hesitate, and because of her, this party became reality. Thank you, thank you, thank you!! xo (See pictures here: http://www.whorublog.com/?page_id=1122 )

Almost immediately, I knew I’d need some help. The talented blogger/designer Jeremy West of Novel Thoughts http://www.novelthoughtsblog.com/ jumped on board to make the gorgeous evites, logo, etc, and then the fabulous Andye and Amy from Reading Teen http://www.readingteen.net/, whom I’ve admired and respected for years because of their thorough and fair book reviews, their sense of humor, their willingness to blog about their opinions on tough topics in YA novels.

The NYC YA Author/Blogger Rooftop Party was on its way.

At the very beginning, there were a few moments of doubt. Will people come? But I asked myself what the worst case scenario would be. The answer was simple – the money spent would be gone and no one would show up but us. (After all, BEA week is extremely busy and authors and bloggers have other parties to attend.) I decided I could live with these risks. Huge expenditure of time, energy, money. But in one conversation I had with Jeremy, I said, “I’d rather take the risk and fall flat on my face, than not try at all.” Generally speaking, that’s one of my philosophy’s toward life. It has served me well.

The experience was way more than we could ever imagined. Each of us brought our strengths to the table and shared ideas through email, Skype, Google Video Chat, texting, and HeyTell. Andye kept an online spreadsheet that included authors and their publishers, bloggers, RSVPs, author facts for our True and False icebreaker. It took tremendous organization and communication. I’ve planned parties in Milwaukee, but never one out of state. I never thought about how convenient it is to get in a car, drive to the grocery store, and get everything I need. In NYC, you have to think about what you can carry. Delivery service is the absolute norm. We had lists of items to bring from out-of-town-I checked two bags at the airport and Amy and Andye’s car was loaded with the centerpieces, books, etc. Jeremy took a bus with name tags, our True and False icebreaker activity, and a canvas he designed for all the authors to sign for one of the ten raffles we had.

These are the book covers of the authors who joined us!

The raffles included Amy’s magnificent book-themed centerpieces (to see her incredible work click here: http://www.readingteen.net/2012/06/my-bookish-crafty-project-for-rooftop.html, Starbucks gift certificates, books, and journals with a cover designed by my husband using all the authors’ covers and Jeremy’s logo. Party favors included blinking “lightbulb” pens, glow-in-the-dark items, Figment tot bags, which we filled with books from Candlewick, Sourcebooks, Harlequin, Flux, Little Brown, Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Disney, Pendrell, Bloombury, Harper Collins, Random House, Macmillan, Hachette. Thank you to all these publishers for making the party extra special by donating YA novels for us to share. In addition, Simon and Schuster gave us suntan lotion in honor of Burn for Burn, Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian’s new YA novel.

Nili’s apartment was filled with boxes from publishers, party places, and on the day of, tons and tons of food and beverages.

Several additional people were integral to making this party a success. Jeremy West’s awesome brother Jeffrey of Novel Thoughts was our official photographer and also had been a part of some of the planning. So glad you could make it to NYC. Thanks so much. xo

From nearly the very beginning, Kelsey Dickson of Reading and Breathing gave us a hand. She put together the playlist for the evening, including songs she found on authors’ playlists of the music they listened to while writing their YA novels. She also brought disposable cameras and glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets, which were a HUGE hit! She helped set up, too. Thanks Kels! xo

The YA from Reading Teen, Austin, Abigaile, and Kit, also were an integral part of the party. Their help was critical for putting our gift bags together, setting up, welcoming our guests, cleaning up. Y’all are awesome! Thank you so much. xo

And my cousin Aryeh, who stayed behind the scene and kept everyone in refreshments and made Amy laugh. Love you. xo

Mitali of Alley of Books and the Teen Author Carnival also came early to help set up. Thanks!

Throughout the planning, we prayed for good weather. (It did end up raining a little, but for the majority of the time, we could use not only the solarium, but the rooftop.) By eight o’clock, the guests arrived. Some of the authors made near Herculean efforts to get to us, including Adele Griffin who was in a taxi for an hour! Tweets were sent, some with the hashtag #RooftopParty. Many of the authors said it was the BEST party they had been to all week. Overall, the evening was a HUGE success. There was laughter, photos taken, budding friendships formed, breathtaking views.

To hear about the experience from Stacy and Shannon from Girls in the Stacks, listen to their comments about the Rooftop Party, which start at approximately 13:00 minutes. (I recommend the entire podcast – their comments about the BEA will make you smile and laugh.) http://girlsinthestacks.com/podcasts/ya-podcast/2012/06/bea-2012/

I have a few more highlights to share with you, but these come from the BEA and the Teen Author Carnival.

Lucas Klauss and Jennifer E. Smith

Jackson Pearce and Eliot Schrefer

Teen Author Carnival was held Tuesday night at Jefferson Market Library. The panel discussions were fantastic. I went to “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful – Keeping it Realistic” and “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Stronger (Kick Ass Characters)” with over twenty YA authors. http://teenauthorcarnival.tumblr.com/

I saw numerous twitter/blogger friends including Briana from The Book Pixie. Neither of us knew the other was attending, and we just happened to get into the same loooog book signing line right next to each other. I’ll cherish our hug and conversation for a long time. Seeing Stacy (and later Shannon) from Girls In The Stacks also made my day. I saw the AWESOME Lauren Oliver and had her sign her latest middle grade book.

Lauren Oliver and me

Patricia MacLachlan and me

On Wednesday, I arrived extra early for the Children’s Breakfast. To my utter amazement, I was standing next to the legendary Newbery Metal award winning author Patricia MacLachlan. Goose bumps bloomed all over my skin. Talking with her was a tremendous honor. She was so kind, even when I went completely fangirl and asked to have my photo taken with her.

Chris Colfer from “Glee” MC’d the breakfast. He was hysterical, joking with the crowd that he wrote the fan-fiction Fifty Shades of Green, in honor of John Green. You can listen to the clip here: http://lover4klaineandcrisscolfer.tumblr.com/post/24540342391/chris-colfer-confesses-to-writing-the-fifty-shades

Lois Lowry had people in tears. She spoke about her journey writing The Giver and the three novels that followed. She talked about how her son who was killed serving our country influenced her writing. It was his questions that led to writing The Giver.  She said that every generation must have hope to vanquish evil.

I met some extraordinary people standing in line for author book signs. Those connections will stay with me for a long time, and I feel truly grateful and blessed to have made them.

TO SEE PHOTOS OF THE NYC YA AUTHOR/BLOGGER ROOFTOP PARTY GO HERE: http://www.whorublog.com/?page_id=1122

GIVEAWAY:  In honor of the Rooftop Party and BEA, I’m offering several giveaways, including this prize package of Burn for Burn and a signed copy by Rebecca Serle of her newYA novel When You Were Mine, which has been optioned for a movie!

WINNERS CHOSEN – SEE SCOOT READ & UNABRIDGED SHELF, THANKS TO ALL FOR ENTERING 

BURN FOR BURN, by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, BURN FOR BURN Sunscreen, Figment Bag, and a signed copy of WHEN YOU WHERE MINE by Rebecca Serle

Entering the giveaway is easy – just leave a comment. Posting on Facebook or tweeting about it adds an extra entry, please let me know. AND, extra entry if you follow me on TWITTER: https://twitter.com/#!/LizaWiemer – Let me know if you’re a Twitter friend. 😀 Giveaway ends Tuesday, June 19, 2012 at 8 PM CST. (US and Canada only)

To enter additional giveaways from our Rooftop Party go here:

Reading Teen

http://www.readingteen.net/2012/06/rooftop-after-party-giveaway.html

Novel Thoughts –

novelthoughtsblog.com/2012/06/bea-rooftop-after-party-giveaway.html

 

Buzzin’ from the BEA
May 30th, 2011 by Liza Wiemer

Reflections after the BEA and Teen Author Carnival: 

Me and A.C. Crispin after she signed her novel, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: The Price of Freedom

Awestruck. It’s the word that keeps buzzing in my head now that I’m back from attending the BEA. The Javits Center was huge, crowded, and at times overwhelming. I loved almost every minute of it. My least favorite part was waiting in the author signing lines, which were so looooog that it was common to stand for a half hour plus. On the bright side, I met and talked with others so time passed quickly.

I met many incredible people –– authors and book bloggers and librarians. Many I have admired from interacting with them online. (You know who you are!) I follow them on Twitter, read their blogs, and pay attention to their posts on Goodreads. A few have been featured on this blog, and trust me, they’re even more impressive in person. I take their opinions seriously. If they recommend a book, I often add it to my “to read” list. What they’ve accomplished amazes me. When I see how they’ve built a following with their blogs at fifteen or nineteen I can’t help but admire that. I met men and women who take their book reviews and blogs seriously, putting thousands of their own dollars into their blogs and traveling long distances to meet authors to interview them in person. I can’t help but admire that too. I met authors whose works are absolutely brilliant and they inspire me to strive and work harder at my own writing. I can’t help but admire them. These are people who are passionate about their work. I admire positive passionate people. I’m a passionate person myself so I’m naturally drawn to them.

There are numerous amazing moments that will stick with me for a long time like attending the Teen Author Carnival http://teenauthorcarnival.blogspot.com/. Three YA put the event together. What else can I say but WOW! I confess to being nervous when I introduced myself to Gayle Forman and gushing and gushing and gushing about IF I FALL and WHERE SHE WENT! I fell instantly in love with her parents who approached me and asked what I liked about Gayle’s books. Trust me, I had no problem telling them. 😀  Leah Clifford lit up the room, Carrie Jones was hysterical, Kody Keplinger a sweetheart, David Levithan humble and amazing. I could go on and on about the rest of the authors – they were all terrific! And the bloggers I met, including a woman from Norway, were so friendly.

At the BEA I met many librarians, including Judy a cousin to Lauren Oliver, another author I deeply admire. I had been talking to Judy for a good half-hour before she revealed the family connection. Trust me, Judy is as brilliant and passionate as Lauren, and seeing Lauren light up when she saw Judy was priceless. I wish I could have captured that moment on camera.

 

 

The Children’s Author Breakfast Tuesday morning hosted by Julianne Moore was fantastic. Sarah Dessen’s talk was inspiring. She shared a story about going to hear an author she admired who clearly did not respect her choice to write for young adults. The person said something like, “You write YA novels? Well, I suppose someone has to do it.” Sarah ended by saying how glad she is to write for this age group and how much she loves hearing from her fans.  Brian Selznick presented his illustrations from his new novel WONDERSTRUCK and the room was so quiet because people were mesmerized by the beauty of his work.

Finally, I met so many new people, and I’m looking forward to staying in touch. A special thank you goes to Heidi from http://www.yabibliophile.com/ whom I met in the terminal on our way to New York. Seeing your smiling face throughout the BEA was like “coming home.”  And Ellen owner of Dragonwings bookstore in Waupaca, WI http://dragonwings.com/ whom I sat next to on my way home and discovered we like many of the same authors. Turns out she knows my sister!

It may take a few more days to come down from this high. One thing is for sure, I’ll never forget 2011 BEA and the Teen Author Conference.

 

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