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The Blog I Do Not Keep

... All right, over the years I've discovered I don't have the drive to maintain a blog.  Here is some old news ... and please visit me on Facebook.

Thanks to the ALA for a silver Printz Honor!  I am beyond thrilled!

Interview on "family-friendly" book blog Between the Pages & Beyond ...

Over the moon with starred reviews from Kirkus, The Bulletin, and Publishers Weekly !!


First review for The Kingdom of Little Wounds is in ... from Kirkus ... and it got a star!!


Many voices weave together to form the narrative. Ava Bingen, a seamstress whose fortune changes when she mistakenly pricks the queen with a needle, narrates many chapters. Midi Sorte, the “Negresse” taken aboard a slave ship from an unnamed part of Africa and now a royal nursemaid, tells her story in a stylized, lyrical voice (“I do not like to hold a pen....It feel a silly thing to me, to tell a story through the fingers”). A third-person omniscient narrator adds more perspectives, among them the pained, ineffective king, Christian V, who loves a ruthless male adviser, and Christian’s petulant, bloodthirsty daughter, Beatte. Interspersed throughout are short fairy tales with dark twists—a princess rewarded for her craftiness when she steals from a girl who eats a poisoned apple, for instance. The story never disguises the grotesque and public nature of bodies or the violence of the court. Readers frequently see Christian talking to his beloved Nicholas while seated at his toilet stool or doctors meticulously examining royal women’s genitals. Both Ava and Midi experience rape at the hands of a powerful man, and Midi in particular is routinely dehumanized, lending the story a sad ring of authenticity. Though the publisher suggests a 16-plus audience, it is not beyond sophisticated younger teens.

Sometimes bleak, but complex and carefully crafted—mesmerizing.



Publishers Weekly gives The Kingdom a star!



“I have always loved a fairy tale.” So says Ava Bingen, a young seamstress in the palace of the fictional Scandinavian city of Skyggehaven. Dark and bloody fairy tales inform this dense, 16th-century narrative, richly layered with multiple viewpoints: Ava, the mad Queen Isabel, the dangerously weak King Christian, the diabolically ambitious Lord Nicolas, and the mute, literate African nursery-slave, Midi Sorte. In her first novel for young adults, adult author Cokal (Mirabilis; Breath and Bones) explores the landscape of the female body as it has been for so long: property of parents or husband, subject to the needs of family and state. During a time of deadly court intrigue and disturbing portents—a new star in the sky, a muddy vortex in the earth—Ava, Midi, and Isabel negotiate their individual paths of survival until their fates are woven together, giving them a chance to save the kingdom and each other. Though the novel’s frank and upsetting depictions of rape, child-marriage, miscarriage, and syphilis mark this title for mature readers, its brutality, eloquence, and scope are a breathtaking combination. Ages 16–up.

I had a great time with this interview--discussing The Kingdom, of course--but also why I write from "such a dark place" and what my greatest terror is.  Thanks, Kristin!  And if you check out the interview, you can sign up for a free book and T-shirt giveaway!

Blogger Marshal Zeringue asked me to write about what I'm reading ... Herein are my Modern Novel class's reactions to Virginia Woolf, my passion for vintage magazines as research materials, the awesomeness of Meg Medina, and the creepiness of The Devil in the White City.  Thanks, Marshal!

Vocabulary Shout-Out: Susann Cokal for "Biddable"

May 23, 2013

Writing about The Golem and the Jinni, a first novel by Helene Wecker that was featured on the front page of The York Times Sunday Book Review last week, Susann Cokal used biddable, a favorite word of dog breeders and trainers, to describe the character of a golem in Wecker's novel.

"In the rabbi’s experience," Cokal writes, "golems can be biddable, but once they awaken to the taste for destruction they become unstoppable and must themselves be destroyed."

Biddable is an old word of Scottish origin that means "obedient" or, more precisely, how "able" (or likely) a creature is to do your "bidding." On biddable's Dictionary page, you can see that our usage tracker shows it cropping up in the context of children trained to be models, ego-free dogs, and a discussion of humans versus wild animals as the subject of nature shows on TV.

A Slideshow of Images that Inspire (or Represent) My Werks

Renaissance palaces, rituals, beaches, my cats and events ....



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