Readergirlz Issue 2 (March 2007)

Happy National Women's History Month!

Truth: March is the perfect time to launch readergirlz, because today's girls will make tomorrow's history.

Truth: Our world needs more gutsy girls.

Truth: Last spring on her book tour, readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley made a special effort to visit urban areas that couldn't otherwise afford to bring in authors. One particular afternoon in Seattle's International District left a profound impact on Justina . . . and inspired readergirlz!

Truth: It took 9 months, 3 additional readergirlz divas (YA authors Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey & Lorie Ann Grover), 1 superstar webdiva nicknamed Little Willow, and the advice of countless children's lit librarians and bloggers to create readergirlz.

Truth: Justina is happy to make good on her promise: to provide a rich author experience to all teen girls, regardless of where they are or what their situation is. (And she is thankful that she can sleep guilt-free now.)

So it's with particular pleasure that all 4 readergirlz divas -- Dia Calhoun, Janet Lee Carey, Lorie Ann Grover & Justina -- introduce you to Patty, a girl who learns to accept, love, and stand up for herself in Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies).

Thanks for joining the readergirlz movement. We can't wait to read and reach out together. After reading our inaugural issue, book on over to our MySpace Group and get gabbing with Justina and the other readergirlz divas!


Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)

Truth: I am Patricia Yi-Phen Ho. Patty to my friends; Pattycake to the one aunt on my mother's side who calls us once a year, and Pattypus to my enemy, Steve Kosanko, a short, stock bully who's hated me since fourth grade. He's right in a way. I may not look half-duck, half-beaver, but I don't look wholly anything either. Not quite white, not all yellow.

Half-and-half Patty Ho has never felt completely at home in her skin. Life at House Ho is tough enough between her ultra-strict mom (epic-length lectures and all) and her Harvard-bound big brother. But things get worse when a Chinese fortune-teller channels Patty's future via her belly button ... and divines a white guy on her romance horizon.

Faster than Patty can add two plus two, her mom freaks out and ships her off to math camp at Stanford. Just as Patty writes off her summer of woe, life starts glimmering with all kinds of probabilities ...

What people are saying:

Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) was named Chicago Public Library's Best of the Best, a Borders Original Voice, a Book Sense pick, and received a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

Unbelievably well done. Engaging, humorous, and realistic.
-- Interactive Reader

. . . filled with made up words like Mama-logue and insta-judge, spot-on observations, and real feeling. I would recommend it for both teens and adults.
-- Proper Noun

A bitterly funny, tear-jerking, raise-your-fist-and-cheer YA novel about race and relationships and reality . . .
-- Readers' Rants

The While-You-Read Playlist

Here's what Justina recommends loading on your MP3 player. Listen to these tunes while you read Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) and get in touch with your inner gutsy girl.

Suddenly I See - K.T. Tunstall

In My Head - Anna Nalick

Dear Diary - Pink

Turn Me On - Norah Jones

Where Are You Going - Dave Matthews Band

Harajuku Girls - Gwen Stefani

Who Makes You Feel - Dido

Unwritten - Natasha Bedingfield

A special note for the first track: Justina considers Suddenly I See to be the theme song for her novel -- the lyrics are kicking -- and so is K.T. who happens to be half-Asian herself.

Gutsy Girl: Josie Watanabe

A shout out to our inaugural Gutsy Girl, Josie Watanabe, Teen Services Librarian for the Seattle Public Library -- the inspiration behind readergirlz! Josie invited Justina Chen Headley to speak at an event in Seattle's International District that made our readergirlz diva vow to provide teen girls anywhere and everywhere with a rich author experience. We honor Josie, a true Gutsy Girl, for sharing her passion for books with teens.

"I love to read!!! Reading is like being a super spy. You get to sneak a peek into someone else's life - to see how they lived, the mistakes they made and how they persevered." -- Josie Watanabe

Readergirlz Community Challenge

In honor of Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies), author Justina Chen Headley encourages readergirlz to break down social boundaries and to help stop bullying at their high schools.

Check out one of readergirlz diva Justina's all-time favorite websites, www.tolerance.org According to the website, 70% of students pointed to the cafeteria as the single place on campus where social lines are established. Read the website to learn how you can break down barriers, separating kids into different social clans. It even gives tips on how you can plan a Mix it Up Lunch at your school to do just that.

Better yet, come up with your own idea to shatter social cliques at your school, and you can win a grant from www.tolerance.org to put your idea into action! Read all about how you can apply for grant money and study how other students like you have made their schools a more welcoming place for everyone.

Mix it Up
The Ultimate Book Celebration Guide

Get your favorite readergirlz together for a fabulous East-Meets-West book party for Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies). Make sure to email us a picture of your readergirlz celebration. If we post it, you'll win a special readergirlz prize!

Invites

Justina used www.evite.com to create invitations for her book release party. To be author-authentic, choose the purple swirly design and download the book cover.

For ultra-creative types (i.e. the ones who shudder at the thought of sending invitations over cyberspace), wrap a fortune cookie in cellophane, knotted off with a ribbon and the invite.

You can use Patty's Truth Statement format for the invitation. For instance:

TRUTH: We are having a book celebration in honor of Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)!

TRUTH: No book discussion is complete without you.

TRUTH: Show up at 12345 Readergirlz Blvd on March, 2007, at 6:00 p.m. sharp.

TRUTH: Truth Serum will be served. So be ready to spill the truth (and that's no white lie).

Eats

Clearly, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) calls for an East Meets West menu.

Here's what Justina served up at her own book release party and you can, too:

*dim sum. Hop over to your local Trader Joe's or an Asian food market that stocks bite-sized dumplings in their freezer section. They're easy to steam 15 minutes before your readergirlz arrive.

*chicken skewers. Admittedly, these are a pain to make. So for a fun alternative, fix sandwiches with an Asian twist. For instance, serve up Asian chicken wraps. (Fill a tortilla with shredded Chinese cabbage, lettuce, bean sprouts, red bell peppers, and chicken. You can drizzle it with a tiny bit of soy sauce.)

*Asian chicken salad. Toss mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, and roasted chicken with greens.

*edamame. Boiled and lightly salted soy beans, edamame, are the perfect nibble during the book discussion.

Of course, every Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) party needs to serve the infamous Jello Inequity which is dished up in the book. Now, Justina's mother-in-law provided her with a recipe for jello that includes cream cheese, which is trotted out every Christmas in the Headley house. Which means that you can fix jello for your book bash, too. (However, to this day, readergirlz diva Justina admits that the jello perplexes her: while the jello is green, does it truly qualify as salad?)

Drinks

The Truth Serum: Serve a sweetened Green Tea (such as Vitamin Water Rescue or Sobe). For a fun and different serving idea, fill test tubes with the truth serum tea and nest them in a bowl of crushed ice.

Decorate

At Justina's party, some of her fabulous friends hung Chinese lanterns around the bookstore. Then, for a hip Asian vibe, they scattered handfuls of (raw) black azuki beans around votives. (If you replicate this, make sure to keep an eye out for burning candles!)

Fill a bowl with fortune cookies and place them in the center of the discussion table for an edible, affordable centerpiece.

Mood music

Simply crank up the Nothing but the Truth playlist from above.

Other party ideas

After your book talk, you can check out Double Happiness, a movie featuring the ultimate Kung Fu Kick-Ass Queen, Sandra Oh.

Discussion Questions
  1. Over one fateful summer, Patty learns a lot of different truths about herself. What was the most important truth she learned? What is a truth that you've discovered about yourself recently?
  2. Early on in the novel, Patty was taunted in an ugly racist incident. How did that impact the way she saw herself? Have you ever faced any bullying of any kind?
  3. Patty found solace and power with girlfriends, one of whom she had originally written off as a loser. How did her perception of Anne change, even as her own self-definition shifted? Have you ever been surprised by the girls who come through for you during your crises—and the ones who don't?
  4. One of the most painful parts of growing up in House Ho for Patty was her relationship with her mother. What changed that relationship for the better? Does your parent/guardian or your teachers have their canned lecture series?
  5. What do you wish you could tell them when those lectures start rolling? Stu makes a truly bad choice at the summer camp. Was that necessary in the plot? Why or why not? How did it affect Patty? Did she learn anything from it?
  6. What was Patty's gutsiest moment in the novel? When have you taken a stance? What do you think enabled you to do that?

Author Chat

Readergirlz diva Justina Chen Headley gives you the inside scoop on writing and her novel in a chat with the other readergirlz divas.

Janet Lee Carey, readergirlz diva: Justina, where did you get your inspiration for Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies)?

Justina: To tell you the truth, I wrote this novel out of rage. Hell hath no fury like a writer-mom whose kids are scorned!

See, I had taken my children, who are half-Asian, half-white, to a Children's Museum, and some teens mocked them in that hung-twung-wung pseudo-Chinese. Anyway, my character started talking to me that night, telling me that she was a biracial teen and how hard it was to feel too Asian for her all-white high school and too white for her mom's all-Asian potluck group. The next morning, I went for a run, and with every step I took, more of Patty's story spilled out.  

Lorie Ann Grover, readergirlz diva: Justina, why did you write Patty's story? Is it autobiographical?

Justina: People always ask me that! They even want to know if it's me on the cover. (No, even though I sometimes feel and act like I'm 17, I'm not. The cover girl is a wonderful teen I met at a chocolate store.)

While some authors write books that are more autobiographical in nature (such as readergirlz Lorie Ann Grover who called upon her experience as an almost-professional ballerina to write one of her novels), I draw from my own history of feelings. I'm not half-Asian myself, but I felt compelled to tell Patty's story, because I believe that the feeling of being an outsider and different and not belonging is universal. Giving a character a transformative summer and getting her to a place of self-acceptance was super important to me.

Dia Calhoun, readergirlz diva: What is your writing process, Justina? Do you ever get writer's block?

Justina: I try to write 3-4 hours every day and sometimes I'll be on a 12-hour writing roll. Those are special days, gifts from the muse. Writer's block happens when I lose my way in the story and forget what my character really wants. So if I go back to that basic question, I can usually figure a way to move the story forward.

Now, getting tired writer's brain is a totally different quandary. Then, I usually head outside for a walk, do yoga, call my agent to complain, or (okay, I'll admit it) cyber-shop at some cool indie crafter sites to tickle my inner Martha. The worst thing to do is to park myself in front of the fridge.  Sadly, chocolate therapy, while so tempting, isn't all that effective in inspiring writerly ideas. 

Janet Lee Carey, readergirlz diva: I was also curious about your ethnic background.

Justina: Well, I'm Taiwanese-American.  That's one of the reasons why the character in my first novel is part-Taiwanese.  But more importantly, I wanted to write a mainstream novel that happened to feature an Asian girl.   

Lorie Ann Grover, readergirlz diva: Justina, who are your role models/heroes and why?

Justina: My mom is one of my main role models. She taught me always to give back to the world.  She is ***not**** the mother in my novel.  This is a work of fiction, not memoir.  Trust me.  (Well, except for the Jell-o part...)

Other role models include Marion Wright Edelman, the president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund. Also, Bill & Melinda Gates. What they're doing for the world is truly awe-inspiring; we're watching history being made.

As far as girlfriends go, Janet S. Wong defines friend and mentor. She is a gifted poet and a gutsy woman who thinks nothing of moving the world to help the people she loves.

And finally, readergirlz diva Dia Calhoun impressed me so much when she so courageously went public with her bipolar illness to explain why her book, The Phoenix Dance, was so important to her.  

Janet Lee Carey, readergirlz diva: Has your family been an important factor in your career, Justina?

Justina: My parents always believed that I would get published.  (Did I mention that my mom is not the overbearing mother in my novel?)  

Dia Calhoun, readergirlz diva: Justina, have you ever had any doubts about your abilities as a writer or about your choice to become a writer?

Justina: Of course!  You're talking to Ms. Neurotic here.  Every day that I face the empty page, I wonder whether I'll be able to write another novel, whether I'm any good, whether I'll keep my readers' attention, whether they'll care about my characters, whether the book will touch anyone...  The doubts go on and on.  But I keep plugging away because I love to write, I love my characters and their stories, and I love my readers who've asked for more books.  

Lorie Ann Grover, readergirlz diva: What is your favorite part about being a writer, Justina? What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

Justina: I love every aspect of writing.  Especially the rewriting!  That's when I really find the heart of the story.

I'd love to keep writing books that connect with readers—which make them laugh and cry and feel something.  I want to write books that are memorable and meaningful.  And I intend to keep tying every book that I write to philanthropy.  That's why I personally sponsored a $5,000 college scholarship essay contest last year.  The winners are up on www.nothingbutthetruthnovel.com!  And I've got plans for something in conjunction with my next novel, Girl Overboard

Dia Calhoun, readergirlz diva: If girls love your book, Justina, what other ones should they read?

Justina: They should check out:

Carolyn Mackler's The Earth, My Butt & Other Big Round Things. I swear, Virginia is Patty's Kung Fu Kick Ass Club soul sister!

Holly Black created a truly spectacular character in Kaye who happens to be the half-Asian star of Tithe. I loved her and this modern faerie tale.

Lisa Yee is pure comedic genius. While Millicent Min, Girl Genius, is a novel for tweens, teen girls and adults will find it pee-in-their pants hilarious.

To explore the outcast status of a teen girl, everyone should read Laurie Halse Anderson's legendary Speak. Darkly profound.

Headlining every girl's must-read list should be Nikki Grimes' Bronx Masquerade—and let's talk about subverting stereotypes.

Readergirlz diva Janet Lee Carey's forthcoming YA fantasy, Dragon's Keep, also deals with a girl accepting herself, just as Patty must.

And finally, Rachel Simmons wrote a fantastic non-fiction book called Odd Girl Out about girl bullying. While Patty was bullied by a guy, not a girl, I still think this is a relevant read for teen girls who've felt like an outsider.

To learn more about this author, visit her website at www.justinachenheadley.com or talk to her at her MySpace at www.myspace.com/justinachenheadley

Next Month: On Pointe

April's spotlighted title will be Lorie Ann Grover's ON POINTE.

For as long as she can remember, Clare and her family have had a dream: Someday Clare will be a dancer in City Ballet Company. For ten long years Clare has been taking ballet lessons, watching what she eats, giving up friends and a social life, and practicing until her feet bleed -- all for the sake of that dream. And now, with the audition for City Ballet Company right around the corner, the dream feels so close.

But what if the dream doesn't come true? The competition for the sixteen spots in the company is fierce, and many won't make it. Talent, dedication, body shape, size -- everything will influence the outcome. Clare's grandfather says she is already a great dancer, but does she really have what it takes to make it into the company? And if not, then what?

Told through passionate and affecting poems in Clare's own voice, On Pointe soars with emotion as it explores what it means to reach for a dream -- and the way that dreams can change as quickly and suddenly as do our lives.

The Ultimate readergirlz Group Guide

How to set up your own readergirlz group:

Ten Tips for Starting Your Own readergirlz Book Club

1. Contact other girlfriends who love to read and chat about books as much as you do, and invite them to join readergirlz. Be sure they stand by the readergirlz Manifesta!

2. Your group can be any size, but staying below 12 seems to work well. Everyone has a chance to share. Will your group be all girls or will it be a mother/daughter group?

3. Consider if there's one girl who will always be the leader or will the leader change from month to month? That person might download readergirlz monthly info and discussion questions for the group and send out meeting reminders.

4. Consider where you'll meet. Homes, a library, a bookstore, or a school classroom are great choices.

5. Is your group going to have a party each month where you follow the great readergirlz suggestions? Who will take care of the food, decorations, and music? The fun preparations might rotate through the group.

6. How long will your meeting last? Two hours is a good amount of time to gab about a book.

7. Have a commitment from everyone to keep to the readergirlz monthly pick and avoid gossip. Redirect discussion that strays.

8. Share your opinions, but be willing to hear other points of view. Everyone doesn't have to agree. Differences make great discussions!

9. Once your group is meeting regularly, be respectful of the other members and ask before inviting another readergirl. Groups can be tight with each other, and everyone needs a say before an addition.

10. As all true readergirlz are, be a great friend in the group and out. These are friendships for a lifetime!

Readergirlz Ground Rules

So here's the deal: readergirlz encourages healthy discussion and debate about the books we're celebrating. What does that mean?

1. Keep it clean: no swearing and definitely no personal attacks, threats, porno, or cybersex. That is very uncool and un-readergirlz-ish.

2. Keep it pure: no ads of any kind, please. This is about the book, the whole book, and nothing but the book.

3. Keep it safe: don't share your personal info in any of our public forums. 

Would you like to receive our newsletter in email? Sign up below!

Sign up for our Email Newsletter
readergirlz