Friday, August 23, 2013

Unreliable Narrator: Verse Novelist Sonya Sones is Lying! Autographed Book Giveaway AND Poetry Friday!

Howdy, Campers! Betsy H. is hosting Poetry Friday today at I Think in Poems. Thank you, Betsy!

At the end of this post are:
1) the details of today's Book Giveaway of an autographed book by verse novelist Sonya Sones;
2) one of Sonya's deliciously enigmatic poems.

However, if you came here to meet Sonya and learn all about her newest YA novel, I'm sorry to say you'll be disappointed.  Sonya just called--she had a dental appointment and couldn't be here today.

 Exclusive photo of Sonya Sones and her dentist.

I lied.  Sonya doesn't need to see the dentist--her teeth are gleaming!  Say hello to my long-time friend, critique buddy, fab author and poet, Sonya Sones:
 photo by Ava Tramer
Her novels-in-verse include: Stop Pretending, One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, (great title!), What My Mother Doesn’t Know (one of the top 100 most challenged books of the decade) and its companion, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know.

Sonya has graciously agreed to reveal the very first poem in her book that isn't even out yet and YOU, Campers, will be among the very first readers of this poem!  Her newest book, To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers), comes out on August 27 and is full of lies. 

Sonya is an original in the best sense of the word. She and I met in poet Myra Cohn Livingston's Master Class.  When Myra died, her students hosted classes at our homes, teaching each other the fine points of poetry.

When it was Sonya's turn to host, she surprised us by hiring a drummer who gave each of us a drum and taught us different rhythms for an hour!  An unforgettable way to instruct and inspire.

She continues to inspire me, always thinking of new ways of telling a story.  I'll never forget the day Sonya said she'd decided to write a novel in verse with an unreliable narrator.  I was lucky to witness the unfolding of what became To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story).

Here's a bit of what School Library Journal says about this book:
"Sones captures the ache of first love. Readers may find themselves laughing, crying, and wanting to believe the unreliable, well-developed narrator. Excerpts may make for a stepping stone to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Like Shakespeare’s play, this title lends itself to discussion about healthy relationships, setting limits, defining oneself, and evaluating what is real. Fast paced and great for reluctant readers.”

Sonya!  Welcome to TeachingAuthors' humble abode!  How did you officially become a TeachingAuthor?

I officially became a teaching author the day I volunteered to teach a poetry writing workshop to my son’s fourth grade class. I gave each student a donut and told them they couldn’t eat it until they gave me a simile to describe it. The rest is history.

Besides bringing donuts, what's one piece of advice you have for teachers?

Make poetry fun! Don’t only expose your students to classic poetry. I teach workshops to middle-schoolers and high-schoolers, and I find that they respond with more enthusiasm to current poetry. There’s a very funny poem by Billy Collins called “Introduction to Poetry,” about tying a poem to a chair and trying to beat a confession out of it, that might be a good place to start. There’s another one called “Pearl” by Dorianne Laux, which is a fabulous portrait of Janice Joplin. Try reading that poem to them and challenging them to write a poem about their own favorite musician. And there’s a great very short love poem by Eve Merriam called “New Love.”

Don’t force students to memorize and analyze. If you choose the right poems, your students will feel the words washing over them like a cool ocean breeze on a broiling hot day. Your goal should be to teach them how to love poetry, not how to “understand” it.

Whoops. Was that more than one piece of advice?

Sonya crossing her eyes with the Book Café Club
at La Salle Academy in Providence, RI

Who's counting?  Please tell us the Cinderella story of how you sold your first book.

I didn’t sell my first book. Or my second book. Or my third. That was when I decided to enroll in a poetry class at UCLA extension taught by the brilliant Myra Cohn Livingston. She set me on the path to writing Stop Pretending. I finished it just before the annual SCBWI conference in Century City and brought my manuscript with me. There, I attended a presentation by a very young  agent  (he was only 24 years old!) named Steven Malk who gave a speech about why you should have an agent if you wrote or illustrated for kids. Then halfway through the speech, he switched over to talking about why that agent should be him. He was so persuasive that after his talk 75 authors ran up to him to ask for his business card. But I hung back, not wanting to crowd him.

Later that day, however, I found myself in the lobby, and there he was, standing all by himself.  Even so, a friend had to convince me to go up and talk to him. But I finally did and I said, “I wrote a book about what happened when my big sister was sent to a mental hospital, it’s written in verse, it’s sort of edgy, and I was wondering if I could send it to you.” He said, “Okay.” And that was it. A twenty second conversation. I mailed it to him on Wednesday. He called me on Friday to tell me how much he liked it. And by the following Wednesday he had a bidding war going. That week remains one of the most astonishing and exhilarating times of my entire life.

I love that story.  And now I've learned that To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) is also available as an audiobook in CDs and MP3, narrated by Kate Rudd, who also narrated John Greene's The Fault in Our Stars.   

I want your life!

What's on the horizon for you?

A lot of traveling! Simon and Schuster is sending me on a book tour: Chicago, D.C., Miami, San Francisco, Menlo Park, Pasadena, Ontario, Raleigh and Phoenix. Then, in October, I’ll be going to Hong Kong where I’ve been invited by Hong Kong Baptist University to participate in an International Writer’s Workshop for a month. I’ve never been to that part of the world, and I’m very much looking forward to this grand adventure. And wherever I go, I will be scanning the horizon for stories…
Oh my gosh!  I'm exhausted just reading your itinerary!  I know you'll meet interesting folks on the way!
Sonya, meeting a fan.
photo by Ava Tramer

And finally, since it's Poetry Friday in the Kidlitosphere, please share a poem!

This is the first poem from To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story):

They Tell Me There Was an Accident
by Sonya Sones

Though I can’t
remember it happening.
Here’s what I do remember:

I remember climbing into a limo
with my little brother Will to visit our mom
on the set of her latest film.

It smelled
like someone had been
smoking pot in there.

Or maybe drinking champagne.
Or throwing up.
Or all three.

Sort of like
our living room
after one of Mom’s all-night parties.

I remember
rolling down the window
for some breathable air

while Will bounced around,
like he always does
when we’re in a limo,

telling me
one goofy knock-knock joke
after another.

I remember turning onto Sunset Boulevard,
and seeing a massive billboard
of a guy wearing nothing but jeans—

his fly unzipped
just low enough
to make me look twice.

Will saw it too.
He grinned at me and lisped through the gap
where his baby teeth used to be, “Thex thells!”

Sex sells?
How does a seven-year-old even know that?
I was just about to ask him—

but I never got the chance. 
poem © 2013 Sonya Sones. All rights reserved

Newsflash: Sonya's own three-book box set of trade paperbacks, The Sonya Sones Collection, will be released the same day To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) comes out. Sonya's comment: "Wow...a new boxed Calvin Klein and I both have collections."

Visit her at, follow her on Twitter, and for goodness sake friend her on FaceBook!                                                           

Thank you for offering our readers a chance to win a copy of your new book (details below) and thanks for stopping by, Sonya!

And now, for the Book Giveaway details:

We use Rafflecopter. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, you may want to read their info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and/or the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of
To Be Perfectly Honest (A Novel Based on an Untrue Story) log into Rafflecopter below (via either Facebook or an email address). You'll see that we've provided three different options for entering the giveaway--you can pick one or up to all three. The more options you choose, the greater your chances of winning. While we haven't made it a requirement for entering, we hope that everyone will WANT to subscribe to the TeachingAuthors blog. We give you several ways of doing so in the sidebar, for example, via email, Facebook Networked Blogs, Jacketflap, Bloglovin', etc.

If you're already a TeachingAuthors subscriber, you need only click on the first option below and tell us how you follow our blog, which will give you THREE entries in the giveaway! (If you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter giveaway link below to enter.)

As it says in the "Terms and Conditions," this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. You must be 18 or older to enter. And please note: email addresses will only be used to contact winners. The giveaway will run from now through August 29, 2013.

If you have any questions about the giveaway, feel free to email us at teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

merrily posted by April Halprin Wayland and her dog, Eli...who wish you a Happy New Year and shyly remind you about April's award-winning book, New Year at the Pier--a Rosh Hashanah Story


Irene Latham said...

Dear April - such exuberance! Thank you. And thanks to Sonya. Very excited about her new book. xo

Carmela Martino said...

What a FABULOUS post, April! And thank you, Sonya, for this terrific interview and poem. I can hardly wait to read your new book!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Dear Irene and Carmela ~ Thank you! If it's a fabulous post it's because Sonya is great material!

Tabatha said...

Love the little details about donut similes and drummers teaching rhythms!

Ann Eisenstein said...

Wonderful and informative interview! Loved getting to know more about Sonya!

Jone said...

Oh I read Sonya's Stop Pretending before I went to Highlights Foundation. Loved it. Will need to get her new book. Oh, that you were in that Master Class....I would have loved it.Thanks for a great interview.

Buffy Silverman said...

Wonderful interview, April and Sonya! Makes me want to be in that living room listening to drums, and to read Sonya's new book.

Lori Degman said...

Awesome interview!! I did an intensive with Sonya last year at the SCBWI LA conference and it was amazing! She's one of a kind - that's for sure!

Linda B said...

Love verse novels, and excited to hear about this new one and the older ones. Great interview & so wonderful you both worked with Myra Cohn Livingston. I love her book!

Carl Scott said...

Such a fun post, what great stories you have. Thanks for that and for the giveaway too. I'd like to win the book for myself, I'm intrigued to read a full-length piece from Sonya. Thanks again.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Gang ~ I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about Sonya and those drummers and more!

GatheringBooks said...

Hi there April, what a fabulous interview. I love novels in verse, but haven't read any of Sonya's works yet. Will try to find her books here in Singapore. :) I hope she enjoys Hong Kong! :)

Margaret Simon said...

I have been working on a verse novel and find this post so encouraging. Can I meet you, Sonya? While I am entering the giveaway and crossing my fingers, I will also put your books on my wish list.

Keri said...

This fantastic interview reminds me of when I heard Sonya speak -- her radiant creativity and generosity shine through. So much to ponder from this one post. I love her books, though they often squeeze my heart a bit harder than the humor would lead me to anticipate! Thanks, April!

Bridget Magee said...

Love this interview and love that there is a Sonya Sones book give-away! Thank you!

Unknown said...

Really enjoyed reading about Sonya and her upcoming book. Love, love, love the donut activity, too! Thanks!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Thank you for this terrific post with Sonya Sones-- love everything I've ever read of hers, and this poem is certainly no exception! Also really liked her advice to teachers.

Sonya said...

Dear April and all the lovely folks who posted comments here,

I didn't see these until just now.
WOW! What lovely and kind remarks...

If April ever asks if she can interview you: say YES!

April, you are an interviewing wizardess. I love all the little touches you added - the links to the poems I mentioned, the funny dentist lie, and the donut pictures.

Thanks sooo much for having me!


Sonya said...


I'm going on a book tour for TO BE PERFECLTY HONEST. Please stop by and say hello.

Here's where I'll be: