Consider what's near you at the moment. Are you talking on a cell phone, looking out the window or driving a car? Is there a dog snuggled beside you or a baby in your arms? In the post-apocalyptic world of Julianna Baggott's new novel Pure, survivors are fused into hybrids by nuclear bomb blasts. Electronics melt into palms, glass embeds in faces, children attach to mothers' hips and machinery replaces body parts. Many are so altered, they barely resemble humans in body or mind.
Protagonist, Pressia Belze was six when the bombs fell. Her parents are killed in the blast and a doll head fuses over her hand. Now, sixteen she's running from the ruling militia who force teens to kill or be killed. Seventeen-year-old Partridge is a Pure, living in a domed-society, protected from the bombs. But privilege comes with a cost and Partridge isn't willing to pay it. He escapes the shelter and the bioengineered enhancements his scientist father requires of children to search for his mother who never made it to the Dome. Unprepared for the savage world outside, Pressia saves him from an attack. Then she's drawn into the search for his mom, and distracted, she's captured by the army.
The remainder of the book follows the teens on parallel paths as Pressia struggles to survive body and spirit, and Partridge continues his search. Along the way their beliefs about society's fall unravels, raising questions they can't ignore. Who set off the bombs and how were people selected for the Dome? Why is Pressia singled out by the militia leader and what role did Partridge's mother play in all this? You'll race to the end of the book to find out. Julianna doesn't reveal all. Pure is the first in a trilogy and she leaves just enough unanswered for readers to crave Book Two. I've read lots of YA dystopian. To the point I didn't think I could stomach another. But Pure captured me. I'm attached to Pressia and Partridge and already dreading the end of Book Three when their story comes to an end. The book has earned great reviews, including this detailed post in The New York Times. For more reviews and author insight, see Julianna's blog, Baggott, Asher and Bode.
Pure is Here!
When I attended Julianna Baggott's workshop at Eckerd College's Writer's in Paradise Conference two years ago, Fox 2000 had bought the film rights to Pure, the first book in Julianna's YA dystopian trilogy. The book sold shortly after and I'm excited to announce it's here!
I was familiar with Julianna's middle grade novels, The Anybodies series and The Prince of Fenway Park. I loved her intricate plots, quirky settings, odd characters and sense of humor, dark and rich like the best chocolate. Julianna's equally delightful in person; insightful, witty and passionate about writing. So I wasn't surprised by the powerful opening in her first novel for young adults. Pure is a vivid depiction of a post apocalyptic world. Protaganist, Pressia bears the scars of the bombings that destroyed civilization. She's lived most of her life among the ruins but carries early memories of a better past and wonders if the the unmarked people who dwell in The Dome are living that way still. Now, Pressia's about to turn sixteen, a dangerous milestone, one she's hoping she'll survive.
Congratulations to Julianna for this riveting new work. Go to Pure to read the book's opening and be sure to watch the trailer. Then tell me the girl with a doll's head for a hand doesn't intrique you.
Crawling Into 2012
Is it really three days into 2012 already? Time is so sneaky. I meant to make resolutions but somehow they haven't solidified. Author, Julianna Baggott shared her enlightened goals on her blog, Baggott, Asher, and Bode . One of her resoultions was to revisit her vows every week and renew them. I don't think I'm disciplined enough to do that. I don't even like to look back at year's end to examine how many I achieved.
2011 battered the world. Oppressed nations erupted, Mother Nature attacked, and here in the U.S., discontent grew in the downtrodden masses. As the presidential election looms, candidates point fingers, fueling hate and further splintering a government that badly needs to unite. Despite the turmoil, I sense optimism for this new year. Is it just lingering holiday euphoria? Or upbeat predictions tossed from experts on TV? I hope not.
My writing suffered serious setbacks last year. Two novels stalled, resisting my best efforts to revive them. Three picture book projects await art and the artist in me is AWOL. I've always worked through dry spells in my art and writing with positive results, until now. By the end of 2011, I was feeling pretty desperate, so I could definitely use hope. My budget allows for no writing education or motivational conferences this year. But I have supportive friends and family, some of them writers who understand this process. And there's already a bright dot on the calender, my first published story, due in Highlights, May 2012. I'll look for inspiration where I can find it, including books . . . thank you, God for libraries! Maybe my first resloution will be learning to trust the dry spell will end.
Dark Wonderland and Bright Pics
Julianna Baggott's new adult/YA crossover, dystopian novel, Pure is due out February 8. On the Pure website, New York Times bestselling author, Danielle Trussoni describes the book as "a dark adventure that is both startling and addictive at once. Pressia Belze is one part manga heroine and one part post-apocalyptic Alice, stranded in a surreal Wonderland where everyone and everything resonates with what has been lost. Breathtaking and frightening. I couldn't stop reading Pure." Julianna's presenting a unique opportunity for astute readers, writers and anyone interested in the creation of books to join Pure's Inner Circle and be involved in the process of Pure's trilogy. You can read about it on her blog, Baggott, Asher and Bode.
And to celebrate the season, here are two photos we snapped this week: My Christmas cactus in full bloom and a peacock strolling through a neighbor's decorations.
This week, my fingers are glued to the keyboard and my mind embedded in novel. (I fought off greedy words, phrases and sentences to get here!) So I'm ushering you to Julianna Baggott's blog where author, Kim Wright guest posted about her experiences with large traditional publishers, small presses and self-publishing. I found it very insightful and more helpful than the usual fare.
And below, some eye candy: Fall foliage taken blocks from my home. Proof Florida does autumn just fine, thank you very much.
Warning: Drama Dump Imminent
And by drama, I mean writer hysterics. It won't be pretty and it's likely to continue for the next few months. The cause? I've entered a mentorship agreement with New York Times bestselling author, Caroline Leavitt. When I first heard of mentorships, my brain conjured images of Dorothy and Glenda, Harry and Dumbledore, Frodo and Gandolf. I loved the idea of a sage hand guiding my work. But I knew I had much to learn before I'd understand a mentor's wisdom.
So for three years I continued learning: in critique groups, books, conferences, online classes, and I wrote and wrote and wrote. Last week, Julianna Baggott, the author who led the YA workshops at Eckerd College's 2011 Writer's in Paradise Conference, wrote a post about building your own MFA. She listed several writers who teach, edit and mentor. This seemed like divine intervention. I had been scanning 2012 conferences but none of them felt "right." Was I ready for a mentorship? I tiptoed through the writer's links in Julianna's post and settled on Caroline. Why did I choose her? First, the information available provided a good picture of what to expect from her services. She teaches online classes at UCLA, which offer course descriptions and a syllabus. Then there's her website, featuring a bio, her books and a blog. I was impressed with her writing and her syllabus and I felt I knew a little bit about her after my research.
I drew a deep breath and sent Caroline an email. She promptly responded with an enthusiastic message, thorougly describing her classes and personal mentorships. She feels the writer/editor relationship should feel right to both parties and offered to review three pages for free. I sent the first three pages of my book Sunday afternoon and a couple hours later they returned with Caroline's comments. I was pleased with her balanced blend of encouragement and criticism and it appeared she could stomach my writing. Another deep breath later, I agreed to send the first hundred pages of my book along with a synopsis, followed by the rest of my book in chunks. More deep breaths, or was that hyper-ventilating?
Then self-doubt demons attacked. What was I thinking? I only had one hundred pages of a first draft; how did I know I could write the rest of the novel? Maybe I wasn't cut out to be a novelist. The story probably wasn't worth Caroline's time. Those imps spun a convincing doubt campaign. I pictured my protaganist and a fierce voice rose to her defense, sending the demons back to their dens. The story would be told. Tuesday, I withdrew from my critique groups to clear my schedule for intense writing time. The hardest to leave was PB&J, my picture book group. They're a source of inspiration and they feel like family. For two days, I've been saying temporary good-byes and receiving best wishes for this project. I feel bolstered by these friends, fellow children's writers traveling a well-worn path to publication. Yesterday, I explored my expectations for this mentorship. I'm not Dorothy, searching for home, Harry, battling evil or Frodo, tempted by a cursed ring, and I don't expect magical wisdom from Caroline. I hope this partnership bolsters my drive to finish this book and the guidance to make it the best it can be. Mostly, I hope to be a better writer when its done.
I write middle grade and young adult books with a magical twist. I'm represented by the fabulous Leslie Zampetti of Dunham Lit.
Lorin Oberweger - Freelance Editor