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Austin Bound! The Texas Book Festival

Austin in Austin, baby! 

I'm headed to the Texas Book Festival this weekend with THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.  Come celebrate small town girls with me on Saturday at noon at the Texas State Capitol.  I'll be signing in the author tent immediately following the panel discussion. 

More details about the whole shebang here:  http://texasbookfestival.org/Author_Page.php?aid=493

A List, A Link, A Winner

Thanks to everyone who emailed me with their favorite "strong setting" young adult novels.  If you're looking for a great read that can draw you in with its sense of place, check out the list below. 

I'd also like to thank David Macinnis Gill, author of one of my favorite books SOUL ENCHILADA, for providing the link to Mary E. Pearson's (ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, THE MILES BETWEEN) beautiful essay on setting -- the "sexy unsung hero" in fiction.  Thanks again, David.  And here's the link to Pearson's post on the TOR.com :

The winner of the Sweetheart Swag is the uber librarian Amy G.  She also pointed out, and I wholly agree, that setting can "be enhanced by our own experience."  

Thanks, y'all!  And thanks to the librarian who recommended THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY as well.  Here's your list (in no particular order) of young adult novels, strong on setting:

David Macinnis Gill               SOUL ENCHILADA
Suzanne Collins                    HUNGER GAMES
Carrie Ryan                            THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH
Maggie Stiefvater                   SHIVER
Catherine Murdock                DAIRY QUEEN
John Green                             PAPER TOWNS, LOOKING FOR ALASKA
Kathi Appelt                            THE UNDERNEATH
S.A. Bodeen                            THE COMPOUND
J.K. Rowling                            HARRY POTTER Series
Andrew Smith                         IN THE PATH OF FALLING OBJECTS, GHOST MEDICINE
Karen Hesse                          OUT OF THE DUST
Cynthia Voigt                           HOMECOMING
Mary E. Pearson                     ADORATION OF JENNA FOX
S.E. Hinton                              THE OUTSIDERS
Sarah Dessen                        LOCK AND KEY
Libba Bray                               A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY
Allison Whittenberg               SWEET THANG
Rachel Cohn, David Levithan     NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST
David Levithan                        LOVE IS THE HIGHER LAW
James Dashner                     THE MAZE RUNNER
Natalie Standiford                  HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT
Melissa Wyatt                          FUNNY HOW THINGS CHANGE
Gary Paulsen                          HATCHETT
Joan Bauer                              HOPE WAS HERE
Chuck Klosterman                 DOWNTOWN OWL
Martha Brooks                        MISTIK LAKE
Jessica Blank                       ALMOST HOME
Melina Marchetta                   JELLICOE ROAD
Neil Schusterman                 DOWNSIDERS
Paul Sizer                                BEATS PER MINUTE  (a graphic novel)

The following suggestions are soon-to-be-released YA novels:

Alexandra Bracken              BRIGHTLY WOVEN
Kristina Springer                 ESPRESSOLOGIST
John Green and David Levithan  WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON
Cynthia Chapman Willis    BUCK FEVER


Strong Sense of Place

When writing, I'm very conscious of setting and how it both affects and interacts with the characters.  Setting for me is more than just background; it is backbone.  And before you purists throw up your hands and shout VOICE, let me add this:  I think setting can lift voice.  Feel free to discuss.

I'm so appreciative of the many reviews which mention Prosper County as a place they know even though it's fiction.  I also have been doing some school visits, and I love it when students and librarians comment on the smalltown setting.  When I hear that they feel like they've been to Big Wells and Prosper County, I know I've done my job (at least in part).

One of my favorite American authors, Eudora Welty, had this to say about setting: 
"Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else. . . Fiction depends for its life on place.  Place is the crossroads of circumstance, the proving ground of  What happened?  Who's here?  Who's coming?"

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Welty's assertion.  Can you imagine Twilight taking place anywhere other than Forks?  How would the story have changed had the setting been different?  What about a classic like THE GREAT GATSBY and the idea of West Egg/East Egg/Wilson's Garage as "the crossroads of circumstance?"  Even consider the work of Jack London. 

Since I had such a good time with the previous blog giveaway.  How about another?  Let me know your favorite, "strong sense of place" YA novel.  I'll put your name in the Stetson for a signed hardback of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.  And a bonus:   A Sweetheart Crew t-shirt and bookmark.  Yes, it's the motherload of Sweetheart swag! 

Let the list-making begin! 

Here are a few of my "strong sense of place" quick picks (random and in no particular order):
TWILIGHT   Stephanie Meyer

Another Sweet Review

Thanks to the folks from Publisher's Weekly for a terrific review of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.  
I got all Miley Cyrus, "Party in the U.S.A." fired up when I read this:

"Alexander’s debut is marked by a colorful supporting cast, fresh dialogue and Southern personality, which contribute to an entertainingly theatrical vision of smalltown life. The strong but precarious mother-daughter bond is well paired to the themes of finding inner strength and self-acceptance and letting go of the past. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)"

I visit PW's website every Monday to check out the reviews.  You can read the complete Sweetheart review and several others here: 

Double-Barrel Blast of Texas Country Music

For Texas Country music fans, September ends with a bang.   A double-barrel blast!

First, the King of Americana and Texas Music icon Robert Earl Keen releases his latest album THE ROSE HOTEL.  Relying heavily on his pure and clever songwriting, Keen offers fans an entertaining collection of story-songs set to a classic country-blues beat.  With legendary producer  LLoyd Maines (Dixie Chick Natalie's dad), Keen delivers an album strong on songs like "Throwin' Rocks" and "The Man Behind The Drums" that bring to mind his classic "The Road Goes On Forever."  Just in time for "The Road's" 20th Anniversary.  http://www.robertearlkeen.com/

And hold on to your longneck bottle . . . East Texas own Miranda Lambert starts a REVOLUTION!

My just-up-the-road neighbor is bringing it with a raw and emotion packed album to which even Rolling Stone gives 4 stars.  On REVOLUTION, Miranda writes 11 of the 15 songs.  For those of you, like me, hoping for a "Gunpowder and Lead" type of rural route throw-down, "Maintain The Pain" won't disappoint.  Girlfriend shoots her radio.  It's like "Bubba Shot The Jukebox" minus the joke.    http://www.mirandalambert.com/

I'm already wearing these albums out.  I love the honest songwriting -- the sharp edge of the simple truth. 

For those of you new to Miranda Lambert, here's one of my favorites and certainly one from THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY's playlist:

"Everybody Dies Famous In A Small Town"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ga-1ex6wsOY


On Parenting and Inspiration

Today, I'm guest blogging at Moms Blog with the Dallas Morning News. 

Please check out my post on parenting and inspiration here: http://momsblog.dallasnews.com/ 

Oh, and don't tell my son I mentioned his eye-rolling.  So the drama!  LOL

Here For The Party

Saturday's SWEETHEART signing and launch party was an absolute blast. Thanks to everyone who came out and showed the love. How about those Barnes & Noble folks gussied up in their boots and mini-skirts! Patti and Joanna know how to kick it country.

This was my first official signing. I'm not sure how these events usually go, but we got lots of books in the hands of eager readers and I signed and signed and signed. You couldn't walk into the store and not know something special was happening. I'm sure most authors feel this way about their events, but ya'll know how I love a party.  And I can guarantee a few things occurred at THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY launch that would only happen at a Jill S. Alexander book signing.

Here's the insider scoop:

#1  The appearance of a pocket knife:  After a frustrating attempt at opening a large bag of personalized Sweetheart M&Ms, the CRM called for assistance.  My dad whipped out his pocket knife and slit the bag.  Yes. He. Did.  He's a problem solver. . . and an old school country boy. 

#2  Everyone met my younger brother:  I don't have a younger brother.  I do, however, have a much older brother for whom pranking is an art and door knocker mustaches are chick magnets.

#3  Bubba got his book signed:   In a moment straight out of Urban Cowboy, I personalized books for three Bubbas and one Sissy.

#4 Event subject to the football god:  Yes, we scheduled the after-party according to the start time for the Texas Longhorn vs. Texas Tech football game.  

#5 After-party scrapped for dancing:  Hey, it was Saturday night in Texas.  We knew we'd lose at least 2 couples to the Boot Scoot and Boogie.

#6 Lawd, Lawd!  A red silk petticoat:  Remember in Gone With The Wind when Rhett gave Mammy the red petticoat?  Well, Frances found it.

Posted via LiveJournal.app.

If you're in or near Tyler, Texas this Saturday afternoon, stop by the Barnes & Noble.  I'll be reading and signing THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY from 2-4:00. 

I'll also be participating in a little Q&A.  This should be interesting because my mother will be there, and I'm sure someone is going to bring up that whole grappling scene from the novel.  Nice.  Watch me squirm and chirp about fiction and the creative process.  

Hey, we're gonna be kickin' it country and rockin' the cowboy boots.  FFA jacket optional, but I've got a "SWEETHEART CREW" t-shirt for you if you're proudly wearing the blue & gold.    Did I mention Sweetheart swag?  We've got it.
Patti Ramey and the awesome B&N staff will be on hand along with the official Sweetheart Crew.  

Hope to see y'all there!


Write On

Boy Wonder is back in school which means I'm back in my writing routine. 

Feels.  So.  Good.

Not that I don't enjoy listening to Miley Cyrus or the Nazi Zombies from Call of Duty 5 while I'm trying to write.  Really.  Sometimes, I can even tell the difference between the two.  And, I must say, I'm proud to have memorized the lyrics to "Ice Cream Paint Job."  Cream on the inside, clean on the outside.  Check.  Also, my basketball skillz are the shizzle.   Show up at my house? Better bring your A game.  I'll put a clown suit on your  . .  .anyway.  We've all had a splendid summer.  Together.

But now . . . I'm back to doing my thing and it's been raining for three days and someone I love sent me chocolate and I am so into my next noveI I may flip smooth out.  All of that to say I missed my writing routine. 

I know some folks go to a coffee shop or library.  Not me.  I like the quiet, the solitude. 

Here's my ideal writing routine:

6:00 a.m.  Up and dressed.  (Plus One squeezes fresh orange juice for us every morning -- no joke.)
7:00 a.m.  Drop Boy Wonder off at school/football practice
7:00 - 7:20  Drive home with the car stereo cranked -- lots of Texas country and Kings of Leon right now.
7:20 a.m.  Return home to an empty, quiet, dark house.  Turn on a single lamp.  Fire up the laptop. 

Write on.


The Texas Book Festival

The 2009 Texas Book Festival kicks off Halloween Day, October 31 in Austin, Texas. 

I'll be there along with some amazing authors from all over the country.    Check out this humdinger of a line-up: 

Stoked I am.

Austin is one of my favorite places in the state.  Live music, Guerro's Tacos, Sixth Street.  Austin is a vibrant city -- full of life, a bit quirky, and definitely one-of-a-kind -- just like our girl Austin in THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY.   Austin in Austin.  Y'all know I'm lovin' that. :)

I'll post my schedule as soon as I get it.  If you're in the area or up for a great weekend, you don't want to miss this.  Think SXSW for books!