Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for Zorro

Okay, so I'll admit I winged it for a few of these. I tried to have a nicely put together list for the whole project before I got started, but a few of these entries eluded me until I sat down in the chair and said, "Well, you have to put down something."
But not for this one. I always knew what the last post would be.
Without a flash, he's a blob. With flash - spooky eyes.
My best writing buddy, Mr. Zorro.
We've had him for 8 years now, just a few months longer than our son. ;)

And he has been the absolute Most Perfect Cat all this time. He's soft and cuddly and super friendly to all who are nice enough to visit him. He truly loves everyone, and believes they only come to the house to pet him, and let him sit on their laps. And he's the very best writer's cat, as well, capable of sleeping on or near me for hours at a time, in an heroic effort to make sure I am not lonely for one single second while I'm typing away on the laptop.

The only problem with my boy is that he's rather hard to photograph. Being inky black and all, he doesn't look like much with his head down and his eyes closed, and if his eyes are open, and he sees you looking at him, well, he's not going to stay far enough away to snap a photo. But I keep trying. I've gotten a scant few cute shots over the years.

Attempt to fix the spooky eye problem in 'Shop.
Mildly successful.

And one more of Lola, because she's pretty darn cute as well.
So that's it. Congrats to everyone who made it to the end! Will I do it again next year? Absolutely. Unless I am on my super-famous-author-worldwide-book-tour. Then I'll have some intern do it for me.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Y is for Yolen, Jane

If you like to work all over the literary map, there's not much better inspiration that the incomparable Jane Yolen. She's written everything from picture books to graphic novels, for every age range of reader. If you've ever read, well, anything, you've probably heard of her. She writes the "How do Dinosaurs..." series for starters, as well as The Devil's Arithmetic, Sister Light, Sister Dark, and Briar Rose among many, many mo  re.  How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?

X is for Xiang Kai-shek

Yes, that is a misspelling. It is also from a running gag in the 1999 movie Go, which Mr. Cate and I have seen about 403,921 times. Because we adored it, you ask? Not really. It's a fun enough flick, but Mr. Cate and I met while we were both working at a movie theater, and one of the first movies that played there during our tenure was Go. And not many people went to see Go at say, 12:15 on Tuesday afternoon, so we would often end up hanging out there when there was nothing else to do. Which was most weekday mornings/afternoons that summer. Which is how we got to talking every day, and realized how awesome we both were, and the rest is sort of history.

So, we saw Go alot. A. Lot.
There is joke in which the characters are trying to come up with a name that begins with "X" for some dead-celebrity-alphabet game.  And towards the end of the first act, Mannie, played by Nathan Bexton, meets a drug dealer's cat, and as tends to happen in this type of movie, they have a telepathic conversation in which the cat offers Xiang Kai-shek as a solution for X, Mannie informs him that the actually spelling is Chiang Kai-shek, and then the cat informs Mannie that he is going to die. Which is about what I'd expect from a cat, if you tried to correct them in any way.
(Mannie does not die, don't worry. And the cat is fine, too, and the drug dealer is played by Timothy Olyphant, in case you needed any more reason to run out and get this movie.)

And thus, every once in a while to this day, someone will speak in the voice of our cat (always kind of effeminate and southern, for some reason) and say "Xiang Kai-shek. Famous Chinese ruler guy. Starts with an 'X'."
Yes, we are fans of very obscure quotes around here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

W is for Write What You LIKE

I make Stuff Up  Funny Mug by CafePress
Remember "Write what you know"?
Of course you do. Everyone has heard that before. And I don't get it, really.
I like science fiction.
I like magical realism.
I like horror, and ghosts, and monsters.
I like fantasy.
None of these things are what the author "knows" or "knew".
Fiction is made up. That's why it's not called non-fiction. If we all wrote what we knew, there would be only non-fiction.
What I know is writing, and painting, and gardening, and raising a son, and being married and having pet cats.
What I write is ghosts and pirates and constellations coming to life, and magical books and clockwork animals and witches and  people that become birds                                    Get this at Cafepress
and birds that become people, etc.
 I know none of these things to be true.
So I don't write what I Know.
I write what I Like.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

V is for Vonnegut

There is perhaps no modern writer more quotable than Kurt Vonnegut.
(and I'm including Hunter S. Thompson in that group, people)
Really, grab any Vonnegut book off the shelf, turn to a random page, plant your finger on a page, and you hit a quotable sentence. And the rest of the book around it will be pretty dang good, too. Some of my favorites -

- Nothing in this book is true. 

- Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

- I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center.

- I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."

- A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.

And a whole bunch more for you, if you have the time and inclination, from Goodreads, and The AV Club

For more on Kurt Vonnegut, go read his books
There are many of them, and I have enjoyed them all. So it goes. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

U is for Ursula

The Farthest Shore (Earthsea Series #3)

There is something wonderful about being a girl and looking at a bookshelf, and seeing the names of so many great women writers. It is certainly inspiring. It gives you the chance to think, as a seven or eight or twelve year old, "I could be like her."

One of my inspirations as a child-writer was, of course, Ursula Le Guin, who wrote the Earthsea books, among many other things. And she still is, as an all-grown-up writer, too. This summer, I'm planning to get back to some of her books I haven't picked up since middle school. (Some of those books-with-maps!)
It's going to be a fun summer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

S is for Shakespeare

I know, I know. This isn't the etching of him we've all come to recognize (even though that might not really be him, either). And since we won't ever know what he really, truly did look like, he might have well have looked like this, right? He does in my imagination, anyway.
So, why pick him, of all writers, for this project?
Well, I like him, that's why. I really do. Beyond admiring his work, or adoring his work, or even, as we can let ourselves do, becoming temporarily crippled by the brilliance of his work, that we could never hope to match in our own fumbling attempts at literature, I find I really do like this guy.
There's something about Shakespeare the Guy that is weirdly approachable. So many of the Very Greats have a kind of distance around them. They appear otherworldly, or inaccessible, or completely crazy.
Not our man Will.
 At least, not to me.
He's seemed like the kind of fellow who would have been fun to know in life, the kind of guy who would have loved to see what we've done with his work, how much he has inspired our culture. Especially in the very meta sense that so much of his work was inspired by the stories that were considered classics to him. He seems... human.

I recently visited the Huntington Library, which has a copy of the first folio on display. It was open to A Midsummer Night's Dream, which I did appear in, once upon a time, as Helena. I was also in two of his other plays, care to guess which ones? Also, if you're a Shakespeare aficionado, what's your favorite of his plays? (sonnets are also acceptable.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Q is for Queries, R is for Rejection, Revision, Requests

I am a day behind! At least! Some of you are up to "S" already!
So, time for a double post to catch up!
Good thing these are all connected.

Queries - don't shudder, wince or otherwise flee the screen! It'll be okay, I promise! This was one of those concepts that eluded me at first, too. When I began my tentative research into maybe jumping into this publishing thing, the very first word that appeared to stop me was Query. Then Revision, Request, Rejection, and all of their maniacal friends, who seemed to present a whole impenetrable morass of things I had to do before I could even get to the Gatekeepers. (you know, editors)
But fear not! (as I said before) Queries are No Big Deal. Really. If you can write 50,000, or 75,000 or 100,000 words, you can write a page making that book sound awesome. Yes you can, you're a writer. There's a very simple secret to the Query. Are you ready? Here it is :

Make your book sound awesome. 

That's it. Really. I promise. 
Write something that would make a reader say, "I have to see more of this! Right now!" 
It's not the hard part. What's hard is that after the query, your book has to actually be awesome. 
That's where our other three frienemies make their entrance. 
You're not going to get anywhere without Rejection. He's going to toughen you up, and make you think about your work critically, and defend what you've done that has merit. (this will be important later.) 
Rejection leads of course to Revision, and she's a tough cookie, but, as we all find out, it's under her harsh, unrelenting eye that the real writing happens. 
And finally, when they have done with you, perhaps you get to meet Request. 
He's a bit goofy. And why wouldn't he be? He's all about fun and excitement and Yes! Yes! Yes! That's all he does - say yes and make you feel wonderful. The only problem with this guy, is that he is also easily distracted, and when he's not looking, those first two can sneak back up on you. But that's fine, because you've danced with Rejection and Revision before. Now you can at least pretend that you know what you're doing. 
That's my plan, anyway. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

P is for Professionals


"We are, after all, professionals."
Favorite Hunter S. Thompson quote, ever.
I think we all know that a lot of artists have day jobs. Like, most artists, and definitely at first. We all try our hands at some things during that process of becoming the Full Time Writer Who Lives In a Cottage At the Beach With A Dog or Possibly Several Cats and Wears All Black and Has Lots of Tea or Coffee (Whatever You Prefer, Of Course) In the Pantry. And Also Wine and Dinner Parties.

This is the official job description of Writer, isn't it? But we all have to do some actual bill paying work now and again before the three-books-and-movie-and-action-figures-and-theme-parks contract arrives in the mail. Some of the jobs I've had in my checkered past include -

Restaurant Hostess - which lasted about three weeks. I sucked at it, but hey, I'm honest.

Assistant Manager at a Movie Theater - which is how I met Mr. Cate. I was his boss. Go me.

Forklift Driver - I did this with my dad for a summer, because why not? Who knows when a girl might need to lift some heavy pallets. Always get new skills, people, I can't stress this enough.

Riding Stable Groom - sort of. I helped the little kids and took care of the school horses, which was a weirdly relaxing and inspiring job. Every living thing has a story to tell.

Apartment Building Manager - this was a trip. And a good way to live for free. And meet... interesting people....

Museum Gift Shop associate - I had to sign an agreement not to collect in competition with the museum, i.e. not buy artifacts they might want. Also I sold toys and old timey candy, so I was totally in a position to hit up Sotheby's for some priceless antiquities. Also also, the backstage of museums are cool, and I got to ride in a freight elevator with part of a T. Rex.

Potter - Been doing this since I was 13 years old. Two of my uncles were potters, by trade, and I did some work for them when I was a kid to earn money for riding lessons, and later, horses. (There's bucks in pottery, apparently) I made clay birds for a while, probably 10,000 of the things, all totaled, and if you own a bowl with a little stoneware bird with real feathers glued into its head - I probably made that. I've also been known to hit the art fairs with my own work, from time to time.

And that gets me up through the end of college. There have been plenty of  other vocations since then.
I love learning new things, but I have a bit of a hang up about sticking with them. Two exceptions, Mr. Cate, and writing. I don't think I'll ever give up either of those. But I'll probably have a few dozen more jobs in my lifetime. I will add that, with the exception of the first thing on the list, I was considered good at all of these jobs, and was actually promoted and given raises, and have not, to the present date, ever been fired from anything. Except painting our living room. Mr. Cate fired me from that once. But he used to be a professional...

So, get out there and try things. Heck, something might actually work out in the end. And  to sum up with my second favorite Thompson quote, "Buy the ticket, take the ride."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

O is for Opening Lines

I think anyone who's written anything can explain about Opening Lines.

Every word in a book is important, of course. Every sentence has meaning, leads the action forward, represents a choice for the writer. But it's the Opening Line that is the Very Most Important in most of our cobwebby heads, isn't it?
The first page must be Great. The first Paragraph must be Outstanding.
But the Opening Line?... That must be Perfect.
I don't fault a book for taking a few sentences to get going. Hunger Games is quite like that. As long as that first sentence keeps you reading, it has done its job. There are plenty of places to go to read the "best opening lines ever" or some such, but here are some of my favorites from the current kidlit universe:

Strange things can happen at a crossroads.
 The Boneshaker, Kate Milford 

Later, while I was facing the Potter Moth, or fleeing for my life from the First Ones, ore helping man a cannon aboard Jack Havock's brig Sophronia, I would often think back to the way my life used to be, and to that last afternoon at Larklight, before all our misfortunes began.
Larklight, Philip Reeve 

If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.
The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket

Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.
 A Tale Dark and Grimm, Adam Gidwitz

Once upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents' house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.  
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne M. Valente 

I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen.          Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs

What I liked most about these is that they set the tone for the rest of the book.
What about you? Any favorite opening lines? For the writers among us, any first sentences that gave you fits, but turned out great in the end?


Today I'm taking a very brief pause from the A to Z thing to give a little love to Mr. Cate, and his new project.

Now, as I've said before, I'm not the biggest fan of horror movies.( Horror books, sure.) But I am the  biggest fan of Mr. Cate, so when he does something cool, like directing a movie, I think everyone needs to know about it. Go ahead, take a look - Chop Shop the Movie. (he's the cute fuzzy one in the driver's seat)
I promise there's nothing too gross there... yet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for Navigation

See this?
This was one of my favorite things to find in a book, when I was still a kid-reader. I love maps, especially completely fictional ones.
I drew so, so many of my own, for what would have been a fictional planet's worth of imagined places, when I was a kid. What is it about maps? I don't know. They're like a list of possibilities, a whole catalogue of places I haven't been...yet.
And as a writer who often uses completely fictional settings, I've found having some kind of very rough map is vital to keeping it all in order, and achieving coherency, when my characters are running all over the globe, or even just all over town.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for Music

Which probably isn't a super ingenious post for today, but I went to see The Naked and Famous last night, and it was a fantastic evening. I highly recommend getting out to catch them, because it seems this is the last round of the tour for their current album.

Next up, Gotye, if he ever gets around to stopping somewhere east of the Mississippi.

L is for Lola

My kitty, Lola.
She's been with us for 12 years now, so we guess she's about 14. I brought her home from the shelter a month after Ben and I moved into our first little apartment. I went in to fill out an application, and saw her in the end cage. She was skinny and friendly and laying in the cage like the queen that she is. It took two days between filling out the application to get it approved, and make it back to the shelter.

When I went in, her little cage was empty. She was in the back room, because she had developed a very bad respiratory infection, but I took her anyway, and brought her home, and gave her little pills every day for a week, and she's been a perfectly healthy lady ever since.

Thanks for coming to stay with us, little Lola.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for King, Carole

Because we had this album - on vinyl, of course - when I was a little, and it was my brother's favorite album, besides Men at Work's Business as Usual. (He was one and a half. When my son was that age, his favorite songs were James Blunt's "Beautiful" and Pixies "Where's My Mind?")

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

J is for Jules

Verne of course! The father of science fiction, and I think we should consider him the founder of steampunk, or at least its biggest inspiration as well.
I started writing a steampunk-y book before I knew that was a genre. I wanted to write something I would have liked as a kid. I was always looking for stories from another era, and the land of literature is rich with history, of course, and the rules are fantastically elastic. Something set in a certain year could have been written in almost any other year, and the imagined past or present can be manipulated into an infinite number of possible constructions, in a limitless system that should make theoretical physicists' hearts leap with joy.  In this wide open wilderness of plausibility, Jules Verne was the greatest pioneer, throwing open the gates of possibility and writing about anything and everything. Plus, he just looks like a nice guy, doesn't he?

Also thanks to him, it's fairly simple to explain steampunk to those who haven't encountered it yet.
"You know, like Jules Verne, if he was writing now about the past."
And in a final note, I named the MC of that first steampunk book Honorine, which I only found out later was also the name of Jules's wife.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for Illustrators

I've done a few posts about my favorite picture books, especially authors and illustrators, and I've dabbled in illustrating for kids myself. I find writing for children very freeing, and illustrating even more so. Children's illustration can be funny, goofy, smart, whimsical, mischievous, macabre, or all of the above, and that's quite alright, indeed.
 So here's a list of some of the most brilliant illustrators out there today. Again, this is by no means a complete list, but if you haven't taken a good look at the art in the children's picture book section, this is a place to begin.

Gris Grimly
Lane Smith
Toni DiTerlizzi 
Maurice Sendak
Helen Oxenbury
Lauren Child
David Shannon
Renata Liwska
John Rocco
Leo Lionni
David Wiesner
Beth Krommes
Denise Fleming

And of course, there are many, many more. Kids are so lucky, these days, to have all this phenomenal art right on their bookshelves.

Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for...Horror!

The Monstrumologist (Monstrumologist Series)My Dad and my StepDad are both big readers, and big fans of horror novels. There was a lot of Stephen King and Dean Koontz around when I was a kid, picking through the bookshelves (and book boxes and book stacks and old trunks full of books) And when I discovered the horror novel, I discovered a world of wicked fun.

I believe the first King book I ever read was Pet Semetery, when I was about 10 or 11. Right after that, I dove into the three existing Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles. (not exactly horror, but for a fifth grader, scary enough) Mom got me Tale of the Body Thief and Memnoch the Devil when they were released, but I haven't kept up with the series since.

 I recently read Rick Yancey's The Monstrumologist, thinking it might be a good read-together type book, and was a little thrown by the very graphic gore. We might wait a little while for that one.  Several times as I read, I went "Oh, gross." Usually, text acts as a bit of a buffer  And there's always something about reading something gory or violent that can soften it a bit from, say, watching it on screen, or seeing an illustration.

Graphic horror is one of those genres I read, but I haven't had any inclination to tackle as a writer.I like the scary, and the macabre, and the chilling, but gory and bloody are usually a little too much for me.  My favorite horror movies are stuff like The Ring, where all the scary is in the atmosphere and the ever escalating tension, and also usually with the really horrifying stuff off screen. But that's the sneaky trick with horror stories. To know just how crazy things are going to get, you're going to have to suck it up and read them!

What about you? Do you read horror novels? Like them atmospheric or spattered in red corn syrup? :D

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Girls!

I think all of us who have ventured into the query world have seen this before - ahem - "Especially interested in boy books, stories that will appeal to boys, stories younger boys would love to read." etc. Now, I have a son who is just moving into independent reading, and I remember my very bright younger brother being generally disinterested in fiction, so I understand the intentions of finding books that will appeal to younger male type potential readers. I hope my son enjoys fiction as much as I do as he grows.

 However, I am a bit suspicious that "boy books" might sometimes be code for "real books". Franchise building ideas because, you know, girls will read books with boy protagonists, but guys will not read "about girls". (Which is something I've see as a justification for this "boy books" preference.)
Girls read. Girls read fiction more than boys. Girls like good stories, and will read them even when they feature a male protagonist. Let's give them the great, fun, exciting stories they love and deserve, and invite the boys to the party, too.

And thank you, to all the brilliant, smart, funny little girls out there reading. It's a fantastic time to be a kid who loves books.

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for First Drafts

I have to admit, I love writing first drafts. I find them very refreshing, and free - in a first draft, I can try anything I want, I can let a seemingly absurd scene play out, because its all going to get revised later anyway, and hey, might as well give it a shot. the surprises can turn out to be the best part. That's where the kernels of ideas really grow into towering vines (that will need to be pruned later, but let's not let that clog up the flow, after all. How can we tel a story with no flow?)

The first draft is the childhood of any book, the place where ideas get tested and held up to the light, to see if the essence of the narrative shines through. And sometimes it doesn't, and those first ideas get reworked on the way to being a big, polished adult Book. But I think it's the fun part.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for Edward Gorey

Because as a kid, I was always intrigued by adults doing unusual and unexpected things, including drawing the macabre and the whimsical for a living.

My first introduction to Gorey was in the opening credits of Mystery! on PBS - which was a surprising trove of curious art back in the 80s and 90s, especially if you stayed up late and flipped through in the wee hours of the morning.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D is for Dragons, How to Train

The Art of How to Train Your Dragon

Which is one of my favorite film adaptations of a children's book, even though it deviated quite a bit from the original material. It was a great stand alone movie, something I enjoyed just as much as my six year old.

In fact, in the last few years, there have been a number of really outstanding film versions of well known and beloved books. Many of them, like Dragons, are vastly different in their film incarnations, but they all managed to maintain that spark at the heart of the original, such as...

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs starring Bill Hader: DVD Cover

 Really different from the book, except for the concept of giant food raining down from the sky, but it's quick and goofy and fun and just go with it. You might actually have a good time.

Where the Wild Things Are Movie Poster

If you haven't seen this, go find it right now. I've never before sat in a theater with a hundred little kids in absolute silence for 90+ minutes, but there wasn't a tiny eye in the theater that wasn't fixed on this screen from credit to credit. To Mr. Spike Jonze I say, well played, sir. Well played.

 Fantastic Mr. Fox

This film must have been made from my giddy fangirl dreams. Rohl Dahl... check. Stop motion animation... check. Wes Anderson... check, and you'd better not be kidding, because that would just be cruel.
This is just about the perfect kids' movie. And Wes Anderson's artistic direction couldn't fit better with the premise, or the characters.

The Black Stallion Poster

And finally, one of the best of all time. Absolutely pitch perfect, and surprisingly spare and lyrical all at the same time. Strikingly beautiful, thanks to Oscar winning cinematography from Caleb Decshanel (yes, Zooey and Emily's dad) with a wonderful pace set by director Caroll Ballard, and a score by Carmine Coppola (yes, Francis Ford's dad) that is haunting and exquisite. The story is also heroically faithful to Walter Farley's book, with the one exception that they shaved about a decade off the age of main character Alec Ramsey, making him a fifth grader instead of a high school senior.
If you want to start the kids' off right, start them off with this.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is for Coraline


I always knew I'd be a writer in some way or another. Maybe not professionally, maybe not exclusively, but since I was a child, writing has always been a part of my life.

Through my early adulthood, I hadn't quite found my voice, the spark that would generate my creative spirit. Just after college, and right before I was married, I discovered the fabulous world of middle grade fiction for the second time in my life. The first had been as a reader, of course, the second was as a writer. That's when I found my niche. I would write for kids.

But it wasn't until I found Miss Coraline, right after she was published, that I found the writerly daring to tell the slightly skewed, definitely darker stories I really wanted to write. Coraline gave me that last little push that said, "Go ahead and be weird, and wild, and a little bit scary." And I am ever grateful, so today is dedicated to her.

(also, notice the cover blurb by Philip Pullman? He needs to be added to my favorite authors list. Along with Kurt Vonnegut, and Michael Chabon and Douglas Adams. )

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Bartimaeus

The Bartimaeus Trilogy

Because he's not the biggest, he's not the bravest, and he's certainly not the most powerful - but he is the boldest,  and the brashest, and that makes for a wickedly fun read with Bartimeaus, the fourth level djinni who would much rather be left alone than summoned to do the bidding of foolish human magicians.

The Bartimeaus Trilogy and the fourth book, The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud, are some of my favorite examples of tone. The humor is pitch black, the voice is absolutely perfect, and the story stays true to it's first person narrator's character, even to the bitter, not-even-for-a-second-saccharine ending. Right at the open, the reader understands that a djinni will turn on a magician in a heartbeat, and not for one second, not even after he's shared three books of adventures with the young magician Nathaniel, do we stop believing that old Bartimaeus wouldn't take that kid out in a second, if he had the chance.

He's a captive, but a wild animal at heart, and Stroud's books never betray that central component of his character.

If you can put up with footnotes (and they're worth it, peeps, really) and you haven't given these books a look, get on it!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z Challenge - A is for Authors!

Welcome to my first crack at this A-Z challenge thing!
To start things off and set the tone for the month, I'm beginning at the beginning - with authors, of course! Where would we be without the beautifully mad minds of the writers who have created our favorite literature? I for one would be wondering what to do with myself all day. Instead, I have writing, and here is a list of all of my favorite authors, in no particular order, as asking me to rank my favorite books and authors is like asking someone to pick a favorite child. I mean, you can do it, but you feel really bad about it.
So, on to the people I think everyone should be reading *

Elizabeth Bunce
Bill Bryson
Jonathan Stroud
Neil Gaiman
Maggie Steifvater
Sarah Dessen
Stephen King 
Barbara Kingsolver
Lucy M Boston
Jon Scieszka
Shakespeare - (sorry, couldn't find a website. You probably have heard of him, though, right?)
Mercer Mayer
Maurice Sendak
Adrienne Kress
John Green
John Irving
Jeffrey Eugendies 
Madeline L'Engle
Susan Cooper 
Susanne Collins

And there are also a lot of others that I can't think of right this second, so I might keep adding to this list as we go.

*This list includes writers of everything from picture books to Middle Grade to Young Adult to literary novels to Non fiction, sometimes all in the same author. Well played, you magnificent scoundrels.