the monk in the garden: notes on mental difference

I went to the Lan Su Chinese Gardens in Portland this afternoon, and was sitting under a pagoda feeling annoyed and disappointed that the tiny sanctuary intended to make you "feel as if you've traveled through time to another era in a faraway world" was instead crowded with so many people wielding cameras and smartphones that you couldn't take a single step without interrupting someone's shot, when I was approached by a young man in a hand-woven poncho and a Salish hat, with a leather medicine bag around his neck. He sat down beside me, took out a set of tingsha which he began to swing around, and started talking about Zen. It emerged that he was both a monk and a shaman and a traveler who had followed the river to Portland in search of a girl he had seen only in dreams. His life work was to restore balance to the universe; to achieve this, he often played his tingsha in the produce section of grocery stores.
He asked me if I was enjoying the garden. I grimaced sl…

a torn map, a candle stub: writing mental illness

WILD AWAKE is coming out in five days. I've been hiding from the internet, but Techie Boyfriend informs me that there are already more words written about WILD AWAKE (in reviews, comments, note-comparing, and general chitter-chatter) than the 75,000 in the novel itself. I know this is just what happens with books in the internet age, but the speed and intensity still feels like one of those elevator rides where the ground rushes toward you in a stomach-dropping whoosh while you're still saying not ready! not ready!
I realize I've been rather secretive about basic WILD AWAKE questions like "What is it about?"—less from actual secrecy than from the bewilderment that comes when you get so used to waiting for your novel to come out that when it finally does, it catches you off-guard.
Now that the proverbial cat is out of the bag, I'd like to belatedly and somewhat redundantly tell you that WILD AWAKE is a story about a teen musician who has a summer of chaos, fi…


One week!

thought of the day

"Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.”-Alan Watts

parents of writers: a memo

Dear Parents of Writers (POW),
The summer book season will soon be in full swing. As several of you have writer-children with novels coming out in the next few weeks, the members of the board would like to take this opportunity to remind you of certain guidelines for interacting with your offspring during this sensitive time. If you have any questions or concerns, a registered POW counselor is available by telephone 24/7 at 1-888-POW-HELP to assist you.
Avoid sending your writer-child e-mail alerts with subject headings like "VegasBabe22 panned your book on Amazon." Although VegasBabe's comments might strike you as a serious affront requiring urgent action, your writer-child may take a more pacifist stance on the matter. Because your writer-child may not, in fact, take each and every internet review as seriously as you do—and indeed, may be avoiding them completely—it is important to inquire about her policy on this matter before filling her inbox with well-meaning updat…

the secret lives of YA cover designers: an interview with Tom Forget

Tom Forget is an artist and cover designer who was recently declared to be one of the "most stylish New Yorkers" by TimeOut magazine. He also happens to be the man behind the cover for WILD AWAKE. He kindly agreed to share his thoughts on book design and the creative life. You can see more of his work at and

What do you aim for in a YA cover (as opposed to a cover for the adult market)?  
That's an interesting question. I think the briefest way to answer that is that there's a certain direct-ness of imagery that we use in YA that is not as strictly observed in adult books. We are less likely to use images that are cropped or obscured than what you might see on adult covers. I think that in terms of color we try to be more immediate as well. There's certainly room for subtlety in YA design, and I think many of the best YA jackets employ it, but we have to make sure that we don't outsmart ourselves (or by extension our reade…

book deals and the nomadic author: letter from shaw island

Dear you,
It is May, and WILD AWAKE is coming out in three weeks. Techie Boyfriend and I have repaired to a campsite in the woods, which is possibly the world's least convenient place from which to launch a novel, but illuminating in its own way.
As I write this, my body is here in this driftwood shack, with a kerosene lantern burning over my shoulder and Techie Boyfriend playing a broken accordion in the twilight, but I'm aware of this other Hilary, a Monopoly-piece extension of myself, moving around the game board of publishing with all of the tumultuous joys and stresses that entails (one roll lands the coveted "You have won $10 in a beauty pageant," and on the next roll it's "Postage fees for over-ambitious ARC mailing; pay $50 to Community Chest.")

I feel a strange tension between those two realities—the one in which I'm a forest creature living a three-mile bike ride from the nearest electrical outlet, and the one in which I'm a person wi…