Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Read YA

Lately--lately, in this instance, meaning always--there are some opinion pieces making the rounds comparing YA books to

Sometimes my dad tells me that he likes my books and he thinks I have real talent, and he thinks I really could write a real book. He asks me when I'm going to write the

I'm currently a senior year English major. You have no idea how many people I know whose big goal is to write the great American novel. In class, I read great piece of literature after great piece of literature and I really, genuinely like some of them. I do. But when it's time for me to curl up with something I'm actually looking forward to? When stretched out on a towel on the beach or balled up crying on my bed and I need that book, it's Melina Marchetta or Amy Reed or Steve Brezenoff or David Levithan or Jaclyn Moriarty, to name a few. It's YA.

People used to ask me if I would write
when I grew up.

I am twenty-one-and-one-half as of last Friday. I'm not saying I'm ancient (I'll leave that to my infant girlfriend) but I'm unquestionably outside of the YA age group. I know I'm far from the only adult reading YA, and I don't know if it's my on-the-cusp age or my body of work or my major that has people so fucking confused by the fact that I care a lot more about stories about girls by their lockers than about men who want to fuck their sisters (what up, Faulkner, write a different book why don't you).

And see, that there is part of it. When my dad asks me why I haven't written that great American novel, I have totally told him, "Because I'm a Jewish girl."

There are some fucking fantastic literary ('what the fuck is literary anyway?' is a topic for a different post and a better writer) adult books written by women, but, um...where are they? Ohhh that's right, they're being ignored and shoved aside by literary purists just like YA books are! Come sit with us, ladies, our table is ever-expanding.

I've mentioned this before, I think, but I had a teacher in high school who once said to me, after Break sold, "I just feel like there's a level of depth missing in YA books, you know?" in this thoughtful voice like she expected me to agree.

Well, you know what? No, I don't fucking know.

There is a reason adults come back to these high school stories, and it isn't a reason I can figure out how to articulate. But it's the same reason people who very much aren't teenagers love Glee and Friday Night Lights. There is something enduring and universal about these stories.

And there is something twisted and weird and personal and so, so not monolithic. And while we're still working on the diversity-of-characters thing (and trust me I am giving myself a get-out-of-fucking-nothing-free card, I have written waaay too many books about white boys to get off scot-free--I mean, I love my books, but write a fucking Asian girl, hannah) we have a ever-changing, ever-evolving body of authors. 

And I get that literary canon moves a lot slower. I get that.

But maybe it means literary canon needs to shut the fuck up a little bit. Because this isn't 1950 and writers aren't (just?) impotent men with typewriters and dark rooms and alcoholism and complexes. Writers are moms and teenagers and gay boys and black women and Jewish girls trying to tap out a blog post while the aforementioned infant girl watches RuPaul's Drag Race. 

Maybe it doesn't have to be such a fucking art all the time. Maybe I shouldn't be getting a degree in this shit. Maybe I just don't get it.

Maybe I should go back to just reading my little YA books on the beach or balled up in my bed.

God, what a fucking waste that would be!

When I was a sophomore, a creative writing teacher told me that after he finished his
he wanted to write some really commercial book about zombies. What a fucking joke, right! A real writer deigning to write about zombies!

Last month I ran into a girl from that class who has him again this semester. I asked if he'd finished his great American novel yet.

He has not.

My zombie book came out ten months ago.

(I love the taste of brains in the autumn. Tastes like legitimacy.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TEETH Teaser, shall we?

how about the first chapter? 


At night, the ocean is so loud and so close that I lie awake, sure it's going to beat against the house's supports until we all crumble onto the rocks and break into pieces. Our house is creaky, gray, weather-stained. It's probably held a dozen desperate families who found their cure and left before we'd even heard about this island.

We are a groan away from a watery death, and we'll all drown without even waking up, because we're so used to sleeping through unrelenting noise.

Sometimes I draw. Usually I keep as still as I can. I worry any movement from me will push us over the edge. I don't even want to blink.

I feel the crashing building. I always do. I lie in bed with my eyes open and focus on a peak in my uneven ceiling and pretend I know how to meditate. You are not moving. You are not drowning. It's just rain. It's your imagination. Go to sleep.

That pounding noise is pavement under your feet, is sex, is your mother's hands on your brother's chest, is something that is not water.

It's not working, not tonight. I sit up and grab my pad and pen to sketch myself, standing. Dry.

Sometimes the waves hit the shore so hard that I can't even hear the screaming.

But usually I can. Tonight I can, and it hits me too hard for me to draw. I need to learn how to draw a scream.

I close my eyes and listen. I always do this; I listen like I am trying to desensitize myself, like if I just let the screams fill my ears long enough, I will get bored and I will forget and I will go to sleep.

It doesn't work. I need to calm down.

It's just the wind.

Not water. Not anyone. Go to sleep.

Some nights the screams are louder than others. Some nights they're impossible to explain away, like my mom tries, as really just the wind passing through the cliffs. “Like in an old novel,” she says. “It's romantic.” Her room doesn't face the ocean.

Fiona, down on the south end of the island, says it's the ghost, but Fiona's bag-of-bats crazy and just because we're figuring out some magic is real doesn't mean I'm allowed to skip straight to ghost in an effort to make my life either more simple or more exciting, God, what the fuck do I even want?

I should figure it out and then wish for it and see what happens. Who the hell knows? Magic island, after all.

Magic fish, anyway. They heal.

That's the real story, that's the story everyone believes, but it's hardly the only one that darts around.

There are creatures in the water no one's ever seen except out of the corner of his eyes.

The big house is haunted.

Maybe we're all haunted.

I only take the legends seriously at night. The house is rocking, and the stories are the only thing to keep me company.

Stories, me, and ocean, and however the hell many magic fish while my family sleeps downstairs and my real life sleeps a thousand miles away.

At home, I never would have believed this shit. I used to be a reasonable person. But now we're living on this island that is so small and isolated that it really feels like it's another world, with rules like none I learned growing up. We came here from middle America. We stepped into a fairy tale.

And my brother is better but isn't well, so color me increasingly despondent, magic fish.

Out in the ocean, the shrieks continue, as high and hollow as whistles. I get up and press my face against the window. My room is the highest part of our kneeling house.

The panes on my windows are thick and uneven. Probably the window was made by hand. Even if it weren't so dark, I'd still hardly be able to see. Everything's distorted like I'm looking through glasses that don't belong to me.

But I can just make out the waves, grabbing onto the shore with foamy fingers and sliding back into the surf. I squint long enough and make out white peaks in the dark water.

“Go to sleep,” I say.

I close my eyes and listen to the screams. I pretend it's my brother, my little brother, who has cystic fibrosis and this fucked-up chest and can't scream at all. Pretend this island has done the magic it was supposed to do, and he's okay. And we can go home.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cover Cover Cover Cover

My FAVORITE kind of post.

 So once upon a time I wrote a book about a magic gay fish...

 I don't have any official cover copy for this yet and fuck if I actually know how to describe it, but the basic idea is that this kid Rudy moves to an island with magic fish that are supposed to cure his sick little brother (HI I AM HANNAH MOSKOWITZ AND I WROTE THIS BOOK). And then he meets this half-fish half-boy who is ugly as all fuck and is this angry, fantastic vigilante and they have this kind of hesitant unspoken romance and there is DRAMA AND INTRIGUE. INTRIGUE, I TELL YOU. Basically it's very strange, very magically-realistic, and altogether very ME so if you like what I do and you're not squeamish about fish sex, you will like this, that's what I think. AND NOW IT HAS A COVER. My goofy blog layout won't let me post it too big, so CLICK CLICK CLICK!

I am really, really crazy about this cover. Do you think it might be kind of shiny in real life? I think it might be kind of shiny in real life.

You can add that shit on Goodreads right here if you want to! As you can tell by its 3 review average of FIVE STARS, it is an important piece of literature already. GET ON THAT SHIT.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Six Days From Now and Ten Years Ago

Six days from now, my 4th book, Gone, Gone, Gone, comes out.

It's been getting really good reviews, which is pretty fucking cool. Look at these nice quotes!

"Moskowitz captures the teenage mentality and voice in this tender yet emotionally complex romance."
- Publisher's Weekly

“Moskowitz, as usual, imbues her prose with a dreamy quality that makes every off moment feel monumental….Despite featuring the very real sniper attacks of 2002, this is as amorphous as the author’s Invincible Summer—not necessarily a bad thing for those inclined to float along with the lullaby rhythm. The theme of the randomness of tragedy (literalized here by 9/11, the sniper, cancer, and Craig’s 14 lost pets) is particularly well-handled.”
- Booklist

So there's that, and that's awesome, but let's lay it on the line: this is my fourth book, and after four books it takes a lot to get my feathers ruffled (gross?) in either a good (yeah, it's gross) or a bad way. ANY review means that someone's picked up the book, and that's what's important to me at this point, and maybe that means I'm soulless, Supernatural or Zombie Tag-style.

Except the thing's different with this one. Even though I'm pretty fond of that magic gay fish thing, GGG gets a special section of my brain all to itself. GGG is just very, very me. Both 'me' as a writer--pretty much every hannah-trope you know and hopefully grudgingly accept is in this book, seriously, make a drinking game--and as a actual, real human.

And it's kind of the end of an era. As of right now, this is my last male-POV fully contemporary YA book. This was me doing everything I love so much, wringing into one book, and letting it rest.

This was me closing a door, for now.

That's not really why it's special.


John Allen Muhammad, the mastermind of the D.C. metro sniper shootings, was executed on November 10th, 2009.

I was at Brown then, and a friend of mine had a blog where he wrote about political events and such, and he asked me to take a look at a post he wrote criticizing the death penalty with regards to Muhammad's execution. Because I was from Maryland, and also because I'm a bleeding heart liberal who was attending a bleeding heart liberal school and I assume he was expecting me to have a certain reaction to the news that someone had been executed.

In any other circumstance, he would have been wrong, but the thing was...

I'd been waiting for John Allen Muhammad to be executed for seven years.

Except, if you'd have asked me, I would have said eight. Because I would have sworn up and down that the sniper shootings and 9/11 were the same year.

I was young--ten for 9/11, eleven for the sniper shootings, so it makes sense that my memories get muddled. But I don't think that's the reason I was so sure that the sniper shootings were a month after 9/11, rather than thirteen.

I think it's a Maryland thing. A suburbs-of-D.C. thing.

They're linked for us. They always will be. We sat right next to a city that lost 125 people in 9/11, and we very obviously were NOT in New York. We weren't even in D.C. We were Maryland, uncomfortably close and uncomfortably detached, and thirteen months (feels like one month) later we, we fucking suburbanites, were the playground for two snipers and two weeks and ten casualties.

We have issues.

It's a Maryland thing.

So I was at Brown in 2009, and my friend showed me the blog post, and the way he talked about Muhammad's execution was...


He talked about it like it was any other situation, any other murderer. He used it as a support in a larger argument.

It just made so much sense.

And there I was, seven years out of it. Seven years of reading the Wiki page obsessively, of reading about John Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo and timing the shootings and figuring out how far I was from each when it happened (not far, never far, and how the fuck could I use that as a reason something was important? People die all the time. Why the hell does it matter if I'm five miles away?)

Seven years out of running in zig-zags on my way to voice lessons and reading about a boy my age getting shot on his way to school. Seven years out of our chief of police crying on TV and our faculty members wearing orange vests and patrolling our grounds.

There was nothing else on the news.

People ducked while they pumped gas.

People talked, all the time, about 9/11.

Seven years out of it, and still shocked that anyone could think it made sense.

So I wrote a book.

(I did what I have to do to make anything make sense. I made a love story.)

So I wrote GGG over a few days a month after Muhammad was executed, during final exams, because I take my studies very seriously, obviously. And because I can't be objective about it. I can't. I can't let it go.

I can't shut this door.

So I wrote a book.

I hope you read it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

An Open Letter to Those Who Review on Goodreads

Dear Reviewers,

I love Goodreads too. I love it as a reader and as a drama-loving red-blooded twenty-year-old extroverted Aries, but I also love it as a writer.

I'm sorry that we've fucked up Goodreads.

I'm having a hard time writing this because I'm so fucking frustrated, and because I'm goddamn ashamed of how I've seen people behaving lately. I feel like this is Boy Meets World and we have to keep learning the same lessons every week and then we go back and make the same fucking mistakes.

I want to tell you that I get why there is vitriol towards YA writers.

We keep doing this shit to you, and I'm so sorry.

I'm not giving any links because this isn't an isolated incident, but in case you've missed what's been going on lately, the gist is that we invade reviewer space, whether on reviews of our own work or a friend's, and act like assholes.

While I don't support anyone's decision to act like an asshole, it's really stupid for us. I get that sometimes you want to take that writer hat off and be a real person, or be a reader. Hell, I still have internet spaces for real hannah, and they're not invisible; you can go friend me on Facebook and watch me exchange videos with my girlfriend and discuss Motion City Soundtrack with my mom and post half-naked pictures from Rocky Horror, you know? (Just drop me a note saying you're a blog reader so I know you're not a random creeper looking at my half-naked pictures from Rocky Horror, cool?)

But I don't really get to be a reader anymore, not fully, and that's just fucking reality. And maybe it's not altogether awesome, and maybe I miss it, but it's a pretty small price to pay for being a motherfucking author.

That doesn't mean I can't write reviews, even negative ones; I do sometimes, and there are some amazing combination writer/reviewers out there--Phoebe North, anyone?--but it does mean that if I go out there and comment on bad reviews with sarcasm and bitchiness and general asshole-dom, I make writer-hannah look like a fucking idiot.

What's more, I embarrass my fans, I disrespect people who support me, and I give YA writers a bad name, and that just isn't how this shit is going to go down.

I don't know why this is such a hard concept for some of us, and I'm so, so sorry that we're just not fucking getting it.

If we can't stand Goodreads, we shouldn't go there. But if we choose to anyway, it is fucking ridiculous of us to think that just because we get those sexy author profile pages Goodreads is suddenly our space to be assholes to people who are doing what Goodreads was made for: reviewing books and interacting with people who love (and hate) books as much as they do.

Don't get me wrong, I love that we have a space where we can obsessively refresh to see how many people have added our books and see what page people are on and read what quotes they've added (THIS IS MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD) and cry over bad reviews and cry over good reviews and cry because this shit is stressful, damn it.

But we are guests here, and Goodreads is your space, and I'm sorry we keep being idiots about it.


P.S. to authors: I know that bad reviews can hurt. I know that sometimes bad reviews are objectively WRONG. Shut up anyway. If you're a decent person with a good book, your readers will defend the thing. And that's the dream. That's what Goodreads is for.