Maureen Johnson's Tumblr
9/15
Do you have any questions that you wish you readers asked at your events? :))

maggie-stiefvater:

"Thematically, do you find that your novels and childhood influences (both literary and actual) are linked and if yes, do you consciously choose vocabulary, plot structures, and character arcs to support these themes? Please explain using examples from the text."

I also enjoy “where do you get your ideas?”

lolololololololol

I would add, “When will you write a book for adults/boys/sentient rocks?”

And, “When are you going to make your books into movies?”

9/8
hollyblack:

COUNTDOWN COMPLETE: One day remains before The Iron Trial is out! In fact, mere hours remain! Here’s Cassie and I getting ready to road trip to New York for our launch event at Books of Wonder tomorrow!!

hollyblack:

COUNTDOWN COMPLETE: One day remains before The Iron Trial is out! In fact, mere hours remain! Here’s Cassie and I getting ready to road trip to New York for our launch event at Books of Wonder tomorrow!!

9/8
Jack the Ripper: CASE SOLVED?

In the last day, a news story has been going around that an author claims to have solved the mystery of Jack the Ripper. My entire timeline is filled with this fact. The reason people keep sending me links about the news is because I wrote a book called The Name of the Star, which involves the murders of Jack the Ripper recreated in modern day London. (I won’t derail this by talking about my book. If you want to read it, it’s available, and you can read the first 1/3 of it for free here if you want. But you don’t have to. I’m just letting you know.)

Because of this, two years of my life were devoted to reading about Jack the Ripper. I read primary sources and secondary sources. I walked East London over and over, sometimes on Ripper tours, and then by myself. I was proficient enough to go to all the crime scenes without aid of a map, to know where the bodies had been located, to know where the now-demolished buildings and streets were. I’m an ARMCHAIR EXPERT, if you will, and maybe even if you won’t. I don’t have the expertise of a dedicated Ripperologist, but I do all right.

For this reason, I have a lot of interest in this piece of “news” (see how I put it in quotes)—and I want to answer the two hundred people who are writing to me saying, “DID YOU SEE THIS?”

 I saw it. Here is the super long-winded answer of what I think about it. Get ready. You did ask. HERE I GO.

There are a few things about this case in general that need to be said before you can address the question of solving it. Jack the Ripper is a popular folk character, almost of mythical proportions. There’s a cartoonish image of the murderer—spooky, tall hat, maybe a cape, taunting the police. He’s an industry—the subject of dozens of books (including mine), movies, tours, haunted houses, television shows, etc. For all of this publicity, the actual, verifiable information about the case is thinner than you might imagine.

image

 If you Google Jack the Ripper, you’ll get a lot of images like this. It’s a bit cartoonish.

The reality is this: there were murders in Whitechapel, a very poor area of London, in the fall of 1888. Some of these murders fell into a very particular and disturbing pattern: the victims were all prostitutes, all female, all at the end of the social scale. The murders were notable for their significant dismemberment, arrangement of body parts, and (in some of the cases) speed. The actual number of murders attributed to “Jack the Ripper” is disputed, ranging from four to eleven, with a general consensus falling with a canonical five: Mary Anne Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly. These five murders took place on the 31st of August 1888 (Nichols), the 8th of September (Chapman), the night of September 29th-30th (Stride and Eddowes), and the 9th of November (Kelly).

The name Jack the Ripper comes from a signature on a letter that was reportedly sent by the killer to the Central News Agency of London (dubbed the “Dear Boss” letter). Opinions are divided, but the letter was widely considered to be a fake and written by a journalist. Hundreds of such letters were received.

The involvement of the news media is a huge part of the Jack the Ripper story. At the time, newspapers had just become affordable. There was a sudden push to get lurid stories. And so the Whitechapel murders became a hugely popular topic, boosted by the various (and likely fake) communications from the killer himself.

So there are a number of issues already with the case in terms of who the victims were and how they were related—as well as the known characteristics of the killer, since there was a mix of fact and fiction in the reported accounts. Add to that the fact that the case was investigated by two separate police organizations (the City of London and the rest of London were legally differentiated and the two police departments did not share a lot of information). Add to that the fact that murder investigations in 1888 were extremely primitive. People walked in and out of murder scenes. People took souvenirs. Bodies were taken, in whatever way possible, to whatever place was handy. Only Mary Kelly’s murder scene was photographed, and again, not in a way that even remotely approaches anything we are used to. The police files on the case—the ones that currently exist—are just a small pile of folders. Most of the case material is missing. Police files were not archived carefully. Officers took evidence files on the case as curiosities (some of these have turned up over time). Some of the materials are simply gone—lost to time and circumstance.

In sum, there’s not a lot of established facts to work with. But people do work with these facts all the time. Ripperologists—people from all walks of life who devote their time and talents to investigating this case—have poured over the available materials for over a hundred years. There are no shortage of theories.

Someone “solves” the Jack the Ripper murders on a regular basis. Probably the biggest last public solving of the case was in 2003, when Patricia Cornwell solved the case and identified the painter Walter Sickert as Jack the Ripper, also using DNA evidence and her own private investigation. Among people who study the case, Cornwall’s conclusions are considered inconclusive at best, at worst, ridiculous. (You can read all about her theories, if you wish. She wrote an entire book on the subject.)

Eleven years later, we again have an author and more DNA evidence. Again, the “solving” is presented in terms of someone having just written a book on the subject. The person named as the killer in this case is Aaron Kominski. Kominski is a popular suspect, almost always named in the pool of best known possibilities. (You can see a listing of popular suspects here.) It is thought that Kominski was the person the police in 1888 thought was behind the crimes, but there is some debate on this subject.

The proof being offered now (as I understand it, from my reading of the news articles in the last 24 hours) comes from Catherine Eddowes’s shawl. The man who claims to have solved the case, Russell Edwards, says he obtained her shawl from relatives of one of the policemen who was on duty the night Eddowes was murdered. This policeman allegedly took the shawl as a gift to his wife. (I just want to stop here and say that I know a lot of you will pause right there and say, “WHO TAKES A SHAWL FROM A MURDER SCENE AND GIVES IT AS S GIFT?” That is a fair question, and one that does require an answer. However, it’s not as crazy as it might sound to us. At the time, clothing was simply more valuable. You didn’t just throw it away. So as super-gross as a crime scene shawl is, yes, there is a possibility that a policeman making little money in 1888 might pick it up as a gift. Yes, it’s still gross, and according the news articles, his wife DID think it was gross and put it in a box.)

So we have one piece of evidence here, and it’s going to be very hard to determine the provenance of that item. It might be her shawl. It might not be. Let’s say it is. How many people handled it? There is a concept in law enforcement called the chain of custody—and it’s all about limiting and identifying who or what has touched a piece of evidence from the moment a crime has happened up until the time that item is examined. This shawl, even if it did belong to Catherine Eddowes, has been floating around for 126 years. And the DNA itself: what’s the quality of the sample? Samples degrade. This is a fun fact I learned when serving as the forewoman of a murder trial. The murder in that case took place in 1989 and I was treated to two days of testimony from experts from the NYPD about what happens to DNA samples that are maybe twenty years old and in modern storage conditions.

There are a lot of questions here, and it will be interesting to hear independent reviews of the case. It could be true—maybe there is something to this. But I think there are a lot of reasons to hang back before applying the solved label to this case. I think this is an great example of how we need to question things presented as facts—when in fact, all we have so far are the claims on someone’s press release. People like to sell books, after all.

Having said that, maybe buy The Name of the Star. At least read the free sample.

Oh, come on. This was a long post. Throw me a bone.

If you want to read more on this subject:

Here is an article from The Smithsonian talking about the quality of the evidence.

If you want to know more about the case, I strongly recommend casebook.org—probably the most complete and carefully curated site on the subject of Jack the Ripper.

In terms of books, there are many to choose from. I’d recommend The Complete Jack the Ripper by Donald Rumbelow. It’s widely considered to be one of the very best on the subject. 

If you’re in London want a tour, I highly recommend London Walks—and Donald Rumbelow’s tour in particular.

 

 

9/8

People often ask me what I do all day. I think I will just point them to this video without comment.

9/7
You have an amazing personality

Go on.

9/7
Why are you angry at the zip-lining dog?

maggie-stiefvater:

For the same reason I’m angry at most videos of sky-diving and scuba-diving dogs. Because the videos are full of laughing humans with the delighted body language of people making videos they expect to go viral, and the videos are full of dogs with the body language of a terrified, unprepared animal.

I grew up with show dogs and show horses and cats and parakeets and now live with dogs and cats and cows and 9 miniature silky fainting goats, and I’m very aware that animals have to do things that terrify them all the time. But I’m also aware that living respectfully and responsibly with these incredible creatures means that it’s my job to introduce them to a frightening or unfamiliar situation as slowly and carefully as I can, with an eye toward whatever their species needs to understand it. And it’s my job to only put them into situations like that when they need it — transportation, for instance, is bewildering to every animal, ever — or when I think that the pay-off will ultimately be rewarding for both of us (showing, swimming, walking past the blue barrel that is strangely terrifying).

In my kindest moments, I assume that the sky-diving/ scuba-diving/ zip-lining dog owners are motivated by that second impulse. They truly believe the dogs will enjoy the experience eventually. But last night I went looking for a video of a voluntarily zip-lining dog after seeing that latest gif show up on my dash. Instead I found three different videos of dogs just harnessed up and then shoved into mid-air. The result is the gif that I reblogged last night — a stiff-legged dog whose body language shouts WHAT IS HAPPENING AM I GOING TO DIE.

This is the equivalent of pushing a human off the top of a high-rise building without reassuring her that she’ll survive, and then saying, “she’ll learn to love it!”

This concludes my anger.

This. 100%

9/5
Ms. Bardugo, I loved your first books, but I was terribly disappointed to see you give in to political correctness in Ruin & Rising. You had a great story and then you ruined it with unnecessary lesbianism. Authors don't need to make statements, they just need to write good books. I hope you'll remember that in the future.
Anonymous

sarahreesbrennan:

lbardugo:

I was really tempted to ignore this because I don’t believe in giving anon wangs a platform, but the term “unnecessary lesbianism” made me laugh so hard that I caved.

Authors can write good books and make statements. I’m going to make some statements now. (Get ready.)

Queer people and queer relationships aren’t less necessary to narrative than cishet people or relationships. In fact, given the lovely emails and messages I’ve received about Tamar and Nadia (and given the existence of anon wangs like you), I’d say making queer relationships visible in young adult fiction is an excellent—and yes, necessary—idea.

I do agree that story trumps statement or we’d all just write angry pamphlets, but queer people exist both in my world and the world of the Grisha trilogy. I don’t see how including them in my work is making a statement unless that statement is “I won’t willfully ignore or exclude people in order to make a few anon wangs happy.” If that’s the statement I’m making, I’m totally down with it.

Also, I’m going to take this moment to shout out Malinda Lo, Laura Lam, Alex London, David Levithan, Emily Danforth, Emma Trevayne, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Cassandra Clare, and to link to Malinda’s 2013 guide to LGBT in YA.  Because why just give attention to bigots when you can talk about awesome books and authors instead?

Quick question to the general populace: who wants to join my band Unnecessary Lesbianism? I only play the triangle, but I know we’re going to make it big.

Isn’t this lovely. I’m really honoured to be on Leigh’s list which has all authors I love and respect (as I do Leigh herself). I was just reading an interview with David Levithan, who has helped change the face of children’s publishing, and he talked about this very thing and listed several authors he loves and admires too: 

http://news.yahoo.com/writer-david-levithan-lgbt-books-young-120410661.html

I think, while there is still a long way to go, that it is really beautiful we can talk about this, and celebrate it, and have a lot of authors and books to talk about, and come together in love and respect and hope for a changing world despite, you know, the absolute raving bags of seagull poop who talk of writing about love as ‘scandalous’ ‘for sales’ ‘to make a statement’ ‘to be politically correct’ or whatever other absolute obvious nonsense they talk about to disguise the fact that the hatred in their own hearts makes them uncomfortable and they just want the discomfort to go awwwwwwway.

Quick question to the anon: how on earth does two people loving each other make a book ‘not good’? How and why does it *ruin* a book for you? And if it does… the whole world is full of so many different loves. If it does, the whole world is going to be ruined for you. Unless you change. I hope you do, because until you do, it’s not the world that’s rotten and twisted: it’s you. Not the world, not stories, not authors, not characters, certainly not love, but you, you, you.

I hope you’ll remember that in the future.

ahahahahahaha unnecessary lesbianism!

bigotry gives you a stupid.

9/2
hollyblack:

Swimming in Puffer’s Pond to get ready for BOOK TOUR!

This may be my favorite thing ever.

hollyblack:

Swimming in Puffer’s Pond to get ready for BOOK TOUR!

This may be my favorite thing ever.

9/2

These people are my PALS and make fun games! Backing this gets you a game! Hey! 

Check it out if you GAME. I think you’d like it.

9/2
fishingboatproceeds:

sarazarr:

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala
From the Washington Post, article here.
GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:
Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.
I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”
Dwayne McDuffie
Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.
I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.
In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.
The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).
By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.
All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”
Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.
Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.
In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.
Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.
We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.
But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.
This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities. After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.
I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.
We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.
Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.
Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.
And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.
Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

I have long had a bit of a writer crush on Gene Yang, for he is awesome in so many ways.

Ditto. What a speech.

fishingboatproceeds:

sarazarr:

weneeddiversebooks:

Read This: Gene Luen Yang’s rousing comics speech at the 2014 National Book Festival gala

From the Washington Post, article here.

GENE LUEN YANG, Library of Congress, Jefferson Building:

Good evening. Thank you, Library of Congress and National Book Festival, for inviting me to share the stage with such esteemed authors, and to speak with all of you. I am deeply grateful for this honor.

I’m a comic-book guy, so tonight I’d like to talk about another comic book guy. Dwayne McDuffie was one of my favorite writers. When I was growing up, he was one of the few African-Americans working in American comics. Dwayne worked primarily within the superhero genre. He got his start at Marvel Comics but eventually worked for almost every comic book publisher out there. He even branched out into television and wrote for popular cartoon series like “Justice League” and “Ben 10.”

Dwayne McDuffie is no longer with us, unfortunately. He passed away in 2011, at the age of 49. But within comics, his influence is still deeply felt.

I was lucky enough to have met him once. About a year before his death, we were on a panel together at Comic-Con. I had the opportunity to shake his hand and tell him how much his work meant to me.

In a column Dwayne wrote in 1999, he talked about his love of the Black Panther, a Marvel Comics character. The Black Panther’s secret alias is T’Challa, the king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. He has super senses, super strength, and super agility. He’s an Avenger, though he hasn’t yet made it into the movies.

The Black Panther wasn’t created by African American cartoonists. He was created in July of 1966 by two Jewish Americans, Stan Lee (who was born Stanley Lieber) and Jack Kirby (who was born Jacob Kurtzberg).

By modern standards, the Black Panther is not a flawless example of a black superhero. In their first draft of the character, Lee and Kirby called him “the Coal Tiger” and gave him a goofy yellow and black costume. Even in his final form, his superhero alias includes the word “Black.” This is true of many early African and African American superheroes, as if what makes them remarkable is neither their superpowers nor their heroism, but their ethnicity. Most problematic, though, was that Marvel made their most prominent black superhero the star of a series called Jungle Action.

All of these flaws were lost on Dwayne McDuffie when he first encountered the Black Panther in 1973, at the age of 11. What struck him was the character’s commanding sense of dignity. The Black Panther wasn’t anyone’s sidekick. He wasn’t an angry thug. He wasn’t a victim. He was his own hero, his own man. As Dwayne describes it, “In the space of 15 pages, black people moved from invisible to inevitable.”

Dwayne’s love of the Black Panther eventually blossomed into a love of comics in general. Dwayne was a smart guy with a lot of options in life. He’d earned a master’s degree in physics. But he chose to write comics as his career. I would argue that without the Black Panther, this flawed black character created by a writer and an artist who were not black, there would be no Dwayne McDuffie the comic book writer.

Dwayne wasn’t just a writer — he was also a businessman. In the early ’90s, he teamed with a group of writers and artists to found Milestone Media, the most prominent minority-owned comic book company that has ever existed. The Milestone universe have since been folded into DC Comics, so these days characters like Static Shock and Icon – characters Dwayne co-created – fight crime alongside Superman and Batman.

In the early ’90s, I was finishing up my adolescence. I visited my local comic-book store on a weekly basis, and one week I found a book on the stands called Xombi, published by Milestone Media. Xombi is a scientist who became a superhero after he was injected with nanotechnology. He allied himself with a secret order of superpowered nuns. One sister was known as Nun of the Above, another Nun the Less. Together, they protected the world from all kinds of supernatural threats.

Xombi was inventive and fun, but he stood out to me because he was an Asian American male carrying in his own monthly title. And even more notable – he didn’t know Kung Fu. Xombi wasn’t created by Asian Americans – his writer was white and his artist black – but he did make Asian Americans a little less invisible.

We in the book community are in the middle of a sustained conversation about diversity. We talk about our need for diverse books with diverse characters written by diverse writers. I wholeheartedly agree.

But I have noticed an undercurrent of fear in many of our discussions. We’re afraid of writing characters different from ourselves because we’re afraid of getting it wrong. We’re afraid of what the Internet might say.

This fear can be a good thing if it drives us to do our homework, to be meticulous in our cultural research. But this fear crosses the line when we become so intimidated that we quietly make choices against stepping out of our own identities.
After all, our job as writers is to step out of ourselves, and to encourage our readers to do the same.

I told you the story of Dwayne McDuffie to encourage all of us to be generous with ourselves and with one another. The Black Panther, despite his flaws, was able to inspire a young African American reader to become a writer.

We have to allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes, including cultural mistakes, in our first drafts. I believe it’s okay to get cultural details wrong in your first draft. It’s okay if stereotypes emerge. It just means that your experience is limited, that you’re human.

Just make sure you iron them out before the final draft. Make sure you do your homework. Make sure your early readers include people who are a part of the culture you’re writing about. Make sure your editor has the insider knowledge to help you out. If they don’t, consider hiring a freelance editor who does.

Also, it’s okay if stereotypes emerge in the first drafts of your colleagues. Correct them – definitely correct them – but do so in a spirit of generosity. Remember how soul-wrenching the act of writing is, how much courage it took for that writer to put words down on a page.

And let’s say you do your best. You put in all the effort you can. But then when your book comes out, the Internet gets angry. You slowly realize that, for once, the Internet might be right. You made a cultural misstep. If this happens, take comfort in the fact that even flawed characters can inspire. Apologize if necessary, resolve do better, and move on.

Let your fear drive you to do your homework. But no matter what, don’t ever let your fear stop you.

I have long had a bit of a writer crush on Gene Yang, for he is awesome in so many ways.

Ditto. What a speech.