Thursday, July 28, 2011

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from Musicals

The very first movie I ever remember seeing was The Sound of Music. It was on VHS, dubbed entirely in Farsi (including the songs), and I loved it.

I still love it. I grew up watching musicals and I have a very, very soft spot for them. It recently occurred to me that some of the best platitudes I ever heard have come in the form of a song smack in the middle of a movie musical.

Here are just a few:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Don't dream it, be it.

Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.

The Sound of Music
So, let them bring on all their problems.
I'll do better than my best.
I have confidence they'll put me to the test.
But I'll make them see I have confidence in me.

West Side Story
There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.

Beauty and the Beast
Bittersweet and strange,
Finding you can change,
Learning you were wrong.

The Jungle Book
And don't spend your time lookin' around
For something you want that can't be found.
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin' about it,
I'll tell you something true:
The bare necessities of life will come to you.

Curtain up! Light the lights!
You got nothing to hit but the heights!
You'll be swell. You'll be great.
I can tell. Just you wait.

What about you? Any musical lyrics that inspire you?

And be honest, how many of these songs are stuck in your head now?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


My friends Billy and Bryan are hilarious and have started a podcast called The Billy and Bryan Show (I said they were hilarious, not very original with titles.)

Last night, I was a guest on their show! We discuss a wide range of [Harry-Potter-related] topics. Including:

- our top 5 Harry Potter actors
- what is up with Cho Chang?
- the Neville/Luna movie conundrum
- Alec Guinness: the Dumbledore that could have been
- the genius of Gringotts Goblin #4

And so much more!

Got an hour to kill (and have seen the last movie 'cause here be spoilers)? Download it for free on iTunes here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Night I Was About to Go All Umbridge

If you're reading this, chances are you know I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I started reading the books in 2001 and have been totally immersed in almost everything Harry ever since.

2001 is also the year the first movie came out. For, it I gathered a few of my friends, we stood in line for the opening night showing...and the rest was history. We've done that for every movie ever since.

As it was for a lot of people, the last movie coming out was very emotional for me. So was the last book, but I think that was offset--slightly--by the excitement of getting to read the final bit of the story. With the movie, I already knew how the story would end. It was just the last time I would experience the excitement in a large crowd like that: with my friends, waiting in line and feeling the love for HP in the air. Goodbyes are hard for me, people.

But I planned the outing anyway and sent out the usual email with the date and time. We decided that we would go to the Regal Cinema in Union Square (in NYC). That was where we had seen the very first movie and almost all of the movies since then. We considered going to a midnight showing on Thursday, but then opted for Friday night since we thought it'd be better if we didn't have to go to work the next day.

This turned out to be the wrong decision.

Although we have always gone to the late Friday showing at this theater, something was off from the very beginning. We waited in line for three hours (and were second in line), but when we got in, a good 50 or so people had somehow snuck in before us and already filled the theater. What was going on? Had they apparated in? That hardly seemed fair (especially since I hadn't known that was allowed! I would have studied up.).

Special Harry Potter 3D glasses: when my friend first noticed they were handing those out, my geek meter went off the charts. I mean, if you have to wear glasses to watch a Harry Potter movie, it would only make sense that they would be HARRY'S GLASSES, right?! Right. Except they ran out of them way before it was our screening time.

This has never happened to be before, but the 3D glasses gave me a massive headache literally a half an hour into the movie. You know that scene in Bellatrix's vault where the gold keeps dangerously multiplying: that could be a metaphor for Hollywood's love of 3D movies. Only replace the gold with poop. I don't need to pay an extra $10 to have things jumping out at me, Hollywood. I can get that for free on my daily commute on the NYC subway.

And then...there were the people in the row behind us.

Remember what I said about the communal magic and love for HP?!

Right. These Muggles did not get the memo.

Now, why you would want to wait in line for HOURS (because these people had decent seats--they must have been there for a long time...and, trust me, there's no way they passed their apparition test), just so you can sit back and snort, snicker and call Bellatrix "ugly" for two and a half hours is beyond me. And when I say WHYYYY, I mean that in the Cee Lo Green sense of the word.

And THEN...then...just as Harry and Ron were escaping the fiendfyre on their broomsticks, I got SMACKED IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD. No joke. Some girl was coming back from going to the bathroom, went to pull my seat back, and literally punched me in the head. If Mad-Eye Moody were around, he would have totally turned her into a weasel.

Afterwards, my friends asked me what I thought of the movie. My sad but honest answer: I don't even feel like I saw it.

My friends and I are going to go again (to a 2D version), but I am truly upset that I never got that final experience of seeing it on opening night with a theater chock full of fans. So much so that I have been reading tea leaves for each and every rude and loud person who was in that theater with me...and they ALL have the Grim.

Now the Thursday at midnight showing: those were my peeps! I should have stuck with them. So excuse me while I go dig out my Time Turner (and by dig out, I mean grab it from the prominent position it has in my living room).

In other news, I'm taping a podcast with my two friends tonight and we're discussing Potter! If you have any questions for any of us (or any particular Potter subject you'd really like me to geek out over), feel free to leave it in the comments section below.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Geek-Off, Part Deux: Vote for the Winner!


And the winner of the 2nd Geek-Off is...Euric with his last-minute entry of Potter Bucks!

Although Euric has been laid up recovering from knee surgery, he has clearly decided to put that time to good use. Here are some close-ups of his winning artwork:

I especially like the captioned names. Extremely Geek-Off worthy! Euric, get ready to sit back and wash down some painkillers with your brand new Geek mug. (And feel better!)

And thanks SO much to everyone who entered. You all rock in the geekiest way possible.

Oh, geek-friends. You make me so happy with your stories and beloved objects of geekery. I thank the Internet for bringing us all together.

And's time to vote for the winner of the second-ever Geek-Off! The poll will close on Sunday at 11:59 PM EST.

Before I leave you to it, I will present you with two entries that have a visual component.

Glove Dinosaur
Potter Bucks
Who will win the coveted title of Biggest Geek? Only you can decide! Vote away!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Geek-Off, Part Deux!

It's time for the second official Geek-Off! Why? Because I said so...

Actually, it's because I have a geektastic new toy to show off and I figured why should I have all the fun?

In case you need a recap, the first ever Geek-Off involved a challenge: one that asked you to put your geekiest item or story up against the crest of Gryffindor which is painted on my fireplace. I collected your entries and then put them to a vote. The results were astonishing, delightful and highly geeky. You can see the entries here and the results here. (Yup, having the bat symbol engraved on your wedding ring pretty much makes you a winner of the Geek-Off and of life, in my opinion).'s time for round two! Give me your geekiest object, story or experience. The only rule is that it can't be the same as anything you submitted for the first Geek-Off!

Behold my entry. It comes with a story (naturally).

On Friday, when I was standing in an almost-3-hour line for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2, and feeling rather blue about it being the final movie, my boyfriend decided to cheer me up. He decided to do so by buying me a present from the store across the street. The store across the street was Forbidden Planet. And he emerged with THIS:

I'm using it to lock the door.
That is a sonic screwdriver. It's specifically the 10th doctor's (my favorite) sonic screwdriver. And it makes the sonic screwdriver noise, expands, and doubles as both a regular pen and a spy pen. That means I can write secret messages that can only be read by the light of the sonic screwdriver.

Like so:

Looks like an ordinary piece of paper? HA! It is actually a TOP SECRET message written by my friend, Jenny, which I have expertly decoded. With my sonic screwdriver pen. (She has one too, obviously. We geeks tend to flock together).

SO...hit me with your best shot, geeks! Leave me your entries in the comments section or tweet them to me. On Friday, we'll take another vote and the winner will receive:

This highly coveted Geek mug designed by yours truly.

Geek On!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swag: A Sneak Peek

It was a busy weekend. The final Harry Potter movie came out (and was attended with great excitement/sadness, of course) and two of my closest friends had their 30th birthday parties on Saturday and Sunday. During a few down hours somewhere along there, I decided to start thinking about some book "swag."

Swag are promotional items that are given out usually at signings, blog giveaways or other events: things like branded bookmarks, pens, buttons, etc. I've seen some really creative book swag recently. Gretchen McNeil had temporary tattoos made of the charm bracelet that her main character wears in her book, Possess. Bree Despain had branded nail polish that matched her book's (The Dark Divine) cover.

At the moment, there are two types of swag I'm thinking about getting. One are some fun map-related bookmarks. And the other are sticker books. Just because I spent all weekend working on it, here is a preview of one of the stickers. (There are five more designs.)

What do you think? I should be getting my order in a couple of weeks and am definitely looking forward to seeing how they turned out.

I'm still brainstorming other fun/creative items though. So if you have any suggestions--things you've seen that you've really liked or just your own original idea that you're willing to part with--please let me know in the comments section!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Acronym City: MG FAQs

I will begin this post with a completely unrelated anecdote.

When I was growing up, I loved the movie With Honors. It's about a Harvard student (Brendan Fraser) who loses the only copy of his thesis down a grate. It's found by a homeless man (Joe Pesci) who proceeds to give him back one page per favor. I found the movie both touching and funny. And the title of my post is reminding me of one particular bit of dialogue.

Joe Pesci is being interviewed by a social worker about receiving disability payments. He is, shall we say, a bit facetious.

Social Worker: DOB?
Joe Pesci: EFGHIK

This exchange has always cracked me up, even upon repeated viewing. I think it mostly has to do with the delivery.

Anyhoo, so acronyms. The title of this blog post...

Hey, I'm a guest over at YA author Gennifer Albin's blog today, answering some frequently asked questions about writing Middle Grade! Dying to know my thoughts on MG language, trends, marketing and more? Read it here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Amazin' Amazon

Yesterday, my mom called me and the conversation went a little something like this:

My mom: Hi. How are you?
Me: I'm good. How are you?
My mom: I just pre-ordered your book.
Me: Wha?!
My mom: Oh, yeah. It's on Amazon now.

Of course I immediately went online and saw that it was, indeed, available for pre-order on Amazon. Behold it here!

That made this whole thing seem pretty real. By which I mean unreal, of course.

By the way, at some point, I think I will conduct a study on moms and how much better they are than Google alerts.

In other news, my nails are ready for watching the final Harry Potter movie tonight.

The rest of me, decidedly, is not. I think I'll forgo the mascara today.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

An Excerpt!

Update: Now with a longer excerpt!

As anyone who's ever even queried knows, the publishing process is S.L.O.W.  And sometimes that can be frustrating. But sometimes, it's kind of delightful because there are so many little things to get excited about along the way.

For example, I saw the genre my book will be placed in for the first time last week when I saw my catalog copy. It is: Juvenile Fiction / Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic.

Which is, obviously, awesome.

And although I had already seen the layout of the pages, I hadn't seen that the very first page would contain an excerpt--an excerpt that actually happens to be from one of my favorite scenes.

And one I will share with you now:

When Goldenrod was certain that there really was no one else there besides herself, she put her foot one step in the direction she was going.

"Well, really. You are going the wrong way, you know," a polite voice said.

Standing there was a tall, elegant man. He was dressed in very old-fashioned clothing: a maroon coat with tails, a beige scarf around his neck, tan pants, and high brown boots, and he leaned on a thin, elegant cane. But perhaps the most extraordinary thing about him was that he was rather transparent.

To her surprise, and probably the man's, Goldenrod actually found herself quite calm. In fact, the first words out of her mouth were, "Wrong way for what?"

"Your quest, of course," the tall, transparent man said with a smile.

The two stared at each other. Finally, after another few moments of study, Goldenrod spoke again. “Do I know you?”

“You might. Or you might not. It’s hard for me to keep up with the state of the education system these days,” the man said.

Goldenrod continued to stare. She was certain that the man’s face was familiar.

"I must say," he continued, "I am rather impressed with how splendidly you are handling my appearance. Then again, I suppose you would handle it that way if you were the right man--excuse me, the right girl--for the job."

"Are you--"

In a flash, the man was gone.

Does it pique your interest at all?

If so, you may be interested to know that although I have received only one ARC (currently going back and forth between sitting in a place of honor on my bookshelf and being ogled at by me), my editor let me know that there are a few more coming my way. Which means that I do plan on running a giveaway or two in the future. So stay tuned!

Monday, July 11, 2011

I Go Away for One Weekend and Suddenly There's a Release Date, Jacket Copy ARC!

This weekend, I went away for a short beach trip with 13 of my very favorite people. It was glorious fun and I did NOT bring my laptop. Just my iPhone.

About an hour after we arrived, I noticed that one of my fellow Class of 2K12ers had emailed to say that the Bloomsbury/Walker Winter 2012 catalog was online. And guess what it included?

My book. With jacket copy. And a release date!!

The first thing I wanted to do was blog about it, but I came to my senses eventually: by which I mean that I realized enjoying the gorgeous beach trumped spending hours trying to compose a post on my iPhone.

But now I'm home. And though I'm very sad that my short vacation is over, I'm very happy to be able to share the following.

My jacket copy!
The Goonies meets Holes when a simple summer outing turns into a wild adventure!

Goldenrod Moram loves nothing better than a good quest. Intrepid, curious, and full of a well-honed sense of adventure, she decides to start her own exploring team fashioned after her idols, the explorers Lewis and Clark, and to map the forest right behind her home. This task is complicated, however, by a series of unique events—a chance encounter with a mysterious old lady has her searching for a legendary blue rose. Another encounter lands her in the middle of a ragtag gang of brilliant troublemakers. And when she stumbles upon none other than the ghost of Meriwether Lewis himself, Goldenrod knows this will be anything but an ordinary summer . . . or an ordinary quest. Debut author Sarvenaz Tash combines an edge-of-your-seat adventure, a uniquely clever voice, and an unforgettable cast of characters to prove that sometimes the best adventures of all are waiting right in your own backyard.
The Goonies meets Holes?! For real? I honestly got a little teary when I read that for the first time.

I love the rest of my editor's copy, too. It almost makes me want to read the book. And, trust me, I may be at the point where it'll be somewhere between 8-10 years before I ever want to read this book again.

But wait, there's more! I also got my release date. READY?!

The Mapmaker and the Ghost will be hitting bookstores on:


Oh, how I love the perfect symmetry of that date. Like how each of its numbers is divisible by four. How the first three digits (424) were the first three digits of my home phone number growing up. How I was born on the 24th and April 24th just happens to be my half-birthday. Um, yeah. So, I'm a bit of a math geek (shocking, I know) and I like patterns.

And, finally, when I arrived home, it wasn't to a UPS slip like I suspected. But to an honest-to-god package. Which held...


 Oh. That is an ARC. Otherwise known as a galley. Otherwise known as a REAL BOOK.

You know what you can do with a real book? You can read it!

A Dramatization
You can put it on a shelf next to other REAL BOOKS.

You can stare at the spine where it says things like your name and your awesome release date.

Which may have compelled me to create a little countdown widget like so:

So, um, you know. It's pretty cool. If you're into that sort of thing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Harry Potter Cast Reimagined

It all ends next week. Or at least that's what the posters and trailers have been telling me for months. I have extremely mixed emotions about the final Harry Potter film premiering next Friday. As excited as I am to see it (and it looks AMAZING), I'm also pretty emotional about it, to be honest. Harry Potter has been a big part of my life for the past 10 years and knowing that this is the last time I'll be gathering a bunch of friends to go stand in line for a couple of hours just so we can see it on opening night...well, that makes me sad. "It's the end of an era," as Monica Gellar once so poignantly said.

I like the movies a lot and I think that, for the most part, they have been beautifully cast. I especially love that they were always cast with British actors and filmed in the UK. I think that really added to the feel of them.

But out of the cast of hundreds, there were a few roles that I could see being played by someone other than who WB picked. So here it is, my dream Harry Potter casting. And if you don't see someone on this list, assume it's because I think they were perfect (even though Emma Watson is way too gorgeous to match book Hermione, but I'll forgive her that one transgression).

So Richard Harris? He was perfect. Michael Look, I've seen him in other things and I think he's a fine actor. But I also think he was trying too hard to "make this part his own." The resulting somewhat volatile portrayal of Dumbledore is just not the beloved headmaster I have in my head. And it changed how I felt at the end of movie 6 (and I'm sure how I'll feel about one of my favorite scenes that'll be in the final film). In other words, I just didn't care as much as I should have. If we tragically couldn't have Richard Harris, I think I would've liked to see Ian McKellen take it on. (I understand why he might not have wanted to do it, what with all the Gandalf/Dumbledore comparisons. But I think he would have been amazing regardless.)

I love this character in the books and I just don't think he comes across quite as likeable in the movies. I would cast David Tennant. He was actually cast as Barty Crouch, Jr. but I think his natural affability and exuberance would have been better fitted for this role as the best D.A.D.A. teacher Harry every had.

I ADORE Kenneth Branagh. I mean it. And he was totally great in this role. But a few years ago I found out that the part almost went to Hugh Grant and, honestly, I think he would have been just a smidge more perfect as the arrogant, periwinkle-clad professor.

Granted this character was basically a non-entity in the movies, so maybe I would have just wanted her to be more present instead of differently cast. But I also kind of see her as a version of Kate Winslet's character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's too tiny a part for the great Kate, but, hey, it's a dream-casting, right?

What about you? Is there anyone who would be in your dream cast of Harry Potter who is not in the original films? Also, am I alone in expecting to sob throughout this entire 2 1/2 hour movie?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

5 MG Reads I Recommend

Yesterday, I wrote about why I write MG, but today I want to talk about reading MG. I know if you're not used to it, it might seem a little odd as an adult to go pick up books for yourself in the children's section. But, if you're willing to give it a go, here are 5 top-notch Middle Grade books I recommend. Remember what I said about magic and humor and epic conflict? I can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Miranda finds mysterious notes everywhere telling her that to save her best friend's life, she must do what they say.

It won the Newbery last year, so there's a much bigger endorsement than I could ever give. But, really, this book is complex and beautiful and a page-turner to boot. Fans of the subtly mysterious should really love it.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
An orphan boy grows up in a graveyard and is raised by ghosts.

Which won the Newbery a couple years ago. I'm a big fan of Gaiman's and I love that his books for children are just as dark and complex as his books for adults. He based this one on The Jungle Book but, in actuality, the story itself is pure Gaiman. In other words, mysterious, grim and just a little bit spooky.

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
An extremely odd group of people all move into a building at the same time and find they are heirs to a fortune: as long as they can solve the murder of their benefactor.

One of my absolute faves as a kid. I read it again a few years ago and the most wonderful thing is that it still holds up. It's funny and a perfectly crafted mystery. I dare you to try and guess the solution!

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Wayside School was supposed to be 30 side-by-side classrooms built as one story; unfortunately, there was a little mix-up and its classrooms were built one on top of the other as 30 stories.

Louis Sachar is also one of my very favorites and I really debated whether to put this one or Holes on this list (another excellent read). Ultimately, this won out solely because I adore the humor so much. It takes me right back to the wacky, hilarious world of elementary school.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Two kids sneak in and spend a night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Um, yes. That is an awesome premise and the whole book lives up to it.

If you haven't read them already, any of these books pique your interest? Or are there any MG books you'd recommend?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why I Write Middle Grade

My fellow 2012 debut author Leigh Bardugo wrote this wonderful blog post last week in response to some recent hullabaloo regarding a Slate article. You should read Leigh's post about what compels her to write YA...I'll wait.

That post got me thinking about why I write what I do. I haven't written any YA (Young Adult) books yet and the next couple of manuscripts I have in the works are both Middle Grade. This doesn't mean I'll never write a YA fact, I very much hope I will and that I'll write an Adult novel someday too. But for now, I'm extremely happy writing MG.

Why, you may ask (because that is the title of this blog post and therefore, must be what is FOREMOST in your thoughts). I shall enumerate!

For one, I first fell in love with books when I started reading Middle Grade. Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, Ellen Raskin and Ann M. Martin come clearly to mind whenever I stop and reminisce about my childhood. You know how they say you never get over your first love? I believe that to be true of many things. For me, that includes reading.

I adore writing from the point-of-view of kids, especially kids that are anywhere from 7 to 13 years old. I think it's a magical time, but one that is also rife with conflicts: conflicts that can seem thoroughly epic to someone with limited life experience (and sometimes even thoroughly epic to anybody).

Speaking of magic...ah, magic. I really enjoy writing about fantastical things. The Mapmaker and the Ghost has touches of fantasy but the latest book I'm working on takes place in a whole fantastical world. And let me tell you: it's been SO fun to write. I'm pretty sure I'm going to try writing contemporary MGs at some point too (in fact, the next one I just started thinking about is), but--for me--MG lends itself to fantasy so wonderfully. I think it's because the MG audience still believes in bits of magic. The secret is...I do too. I think there are touches of magic all around us and being able to expand upon that in a story...well, I'm not sure how many other audiences will give you the same leeway to do so.

Humor. I love writing it and I never laughed harder as a child than I did when reading a really funny book. I'm not sure I ever lost that silly/slightly mischievous sense of humor. In other words, the average 8-year-old will probably find me funnier than the average 38-year-old. I have accepted this to be true.

The great Madeleine L'Engle once said, "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

And I love writing for children. I really do.

If you're a writer, what do you think compels you to work in the genre you work in?