Heart Beat

It’s now less than a week until publication (2/28) of The Beast Is an Animal, so let’s all take a quiet moment to listen to my heart beating. Yes, that’s right, you can hear it through whatever device you’re currently using.

In the last month, I’ve been happy and relieved to get several nice reviews, excerpts of which you can read here. So far, this is probably my favorite. (And not just because of the seal GIF, which is admittedly awesome.) It made me feel—wow, she really got what I was doing! That has been one of my biggest fears, that people would read it and scratch their heads. She said, “Where has this book been all my life?” Which, you know, I could ask myself. And the answer would be: percolating.

Since I last wrote, I attended Winter Institute, a big conference organized by the American Booksellers Association. It was so much fun, and I describe why here. In March I attend the NoVa Teen Book Festival, which I’m so excited about. Not only do I participate in a number of panels with other authors, I get to visit a high school where teenagers have read my book—actual readers of my actual book. And we’re going to talk about it! Truly, I can’t imagine anything more rewarding or exciting than that.

I’m also doing a Skype conversation with a group of teen readers at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, on Friday evening. If you know of a reading group or classroom that would like to order books and have me Skype in for a conversation, please let me know. I’m happy to talk not just about my book, but about writing in general, as well as how to be a good editor of your own work as well as others’.  This goes for groups of adults as well as teens and middle-graders.

Okay, the last thing about me: One of the blessings of having my publisher acquire two books is that it’s freed up some of my time to do other writing. So I’ve now written an essay that appeared here—which is about the ways in which my novel is eerily, weirdly, sadly applicable to our times. In short: There is a wall in my book, which fearful people build to keep out the monsters. Yikes. Why does that feel like a newspaper headline? In the coming weeks I hope to have announcements about more essays, which are currently in the pitching and writing stage of things.

Now, for goddess’s sake let’s talk about someone else, because this is what I look like when I talk about myself too much:

Photo by © Barbara Morgan

Photo by © Barbara Morgan


I’ve been watching “The Man in the High Castle,” which imagines what the world would be like if a dictator had won WW2. Hm. Anyway, one of the more fascinating things about watching it is that you’re often challenged to ask yourself: What would I have done in that situation? Would I have kept quiet and stayed safe, or would I have spoken up for myself and others? What’s brave and what’s foolhardy? What’s selfish and what’s caring for the ones you love?

My reading right now is glorious. I don’t know why, but when I started Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye years ago, I didn’t get past the first quarter. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy it—I did. It may have been the usual excuse, which is that I had so much reading for work that I couldn’t read for pleasure. Now the only thing that gets in the way of my pleasure reading is my social media addiction, and I’ve been working hard to curb that. So any time I feel tempted to avoid work by checking out Twitter, instead I pick up Cat’s Eye. And if that isn’t a cure for spending time in other ways, I don’t know what is. I love Margaret Atwood, no secret there, and in Cat’s Eye she is at the height of her powers. Sentence by sentence I have never felt such suspense, such terror that something awful was about to happen. She alleviates this terror by showing us her protagonist in the present—we know she survived—but that makes it just bearable. And what is her protagonist threatened by? Not a rival empire or some otherworldly force of evil. No, she’s a grade school girl threatened by other grade school girls. And it’s terrifying. Each perfectly-shaped sentence carries so much implicit threat and certainty of doom that I’m finding it the most propulsive reading experience I’ve had in a long time.

Okay, one last thing about me. (I know. I’m terrible.) My book event at McNally Jackson is Wednesday, March 1, at 7PM. If you can’t make it, you have until tomorrow, February 23, to pre-order a signed, personalized copy.

You must have people with birthdays coming up. And Mother’s Day! Wouldn’t Mom like a copy with her name in it? Of course she would.  Plus, I’ll include one of these nifty bookmarks that I drew my very own self:

Illustration by P. van Arsdale

Illustration by P. van Arsdale

As always, thank you so much for reading.


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Peternelle van