Saturday, January 30, 2016

ABA Winter Institute 11 Full Report

This past weekend, my wife and I traveled to Denver for the American Bookseller Association's Winter Institute.  If you're not familiar with the ABA, they're a massively awesome organization of independent bookstore owners.  Their Winter Institute is their big event each year where they come together for three days of programming, including featured speakers, education sessions, rep picks presentations, etc.  Close to 600 ABA members attended, as well as 100 authors.  I--duh--was one of those authors, sent there by Sourcebooks with the directive to be charming and friendly.  So, after looking up both of those words in the dictionary, and watching YouTube videos on the subjects, I traveled to Denver.

Seen outside the very cool indie bookstore The Tattered Cover in the Denver Airport.
On Sunday night, I had dinner with (the amazing) Sourcebooks' Valerie and Heidi, as well as 15 bookstore owners.  Some had read DON'T GET CAUGHT, others had not...everyone was awesome.  There's just something incredibly invigorating and motivating about being around other book lovers.  There's something equally special about being around independent booksellers, who's love of all things reading bonds them together when you might think they'd be highly competitive fighting for book buyers.  It really is a unique and fantastic community.

Valerie, dopey guy, and Heidi.
My big event was the author reception on Monday night.  I was in a ballroom with 75-100 other authors that I signed and handed out arcs of my novel to booksellers.  I hate when people use the word "surreal" to describe something, but being in a room with writers like Richard Russo, Kwame Alexander, and Louise Erdrich was just that--surreal.  I figured at any moment the book police were going to drag me out of that room and put me in the children's room.  For some reason though, that didn't happen though.

My big bald head on a giant screen.
The signing, put simply, was amazing.  I signed books for and talked with over 80 booksellers, all of whom were enthusiastic and incredibly supportive.  I was invited to do events at their stores and to come teach workshops to young writers in their communities.  It really made me wish I had the ability to write full-time.  It's a good goal to work towards.

Me clearly hissing at someone; Marie being friendly and social.
Beyond the actual signing, probably my favorite part of the trip was watching how happy my wife was walking around and being handed free books.  I'm pretty sure that next to our children being born my wife's greatest moment in life is now the free books she received...all three boxes full!

The signing moments after it started.
So what did I learn on this trip: Independent Booksellers are awesome, and from here on out, I'm supporting indie bookstores to the extreme.  The trip also solidified my belief that Sourcebooks is the perfect publisher for me.  Valerie and Heidi were incredibly supportive, enthusiastic, and helpful.  Countless booksellers came up and told me just what a great job Valerie and Heidi had done promoting my book to them.  I couldn't ask for help from better people.

More of the signing.
Quick shoutouts:
1. Longtime friend Sam W. Anderson not only drove us from the airport to our hotel, but also cut out of work to meet me for lunch.  His new novel THE NINES, is a wild, action-packed ride that would be a fantastic TV show.

2. New friend Marie Benedict is a rockstar.  She was the other Sourcebooks author at the Winter Institute, and her novel THE OTHER EINSTEIN, which is out in October, is going to be HUGE.  Marie was awesome and incredibly helpful, and my wife will always be indebted to her for pointing out the the Galley Rooms (filled with free arcs!) were open when we thought they were definitely closed.  :)

Monday, January 11, 2016


It seems like every couple of days I receive and email from my publisher, agent, or blogger about DON'T GET CAUGHT.  Here's a rundown of some of that news:

1. The book sold to a German publisher!
This means that, yes, you'll also be willing to buy the book in German if you're so inclined.  I'm not sure what the cover will look like, but I'm totally hoping there's some sort of weird translation that retitles the novel something really strange.

2. I'll be attending the American Booksellers Association Winter Institute in Denver.

Yes, this will be my first conference, and while there I'll...okay, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to while I'm there.  But my wife is going with me, one of my best friends, Sam W. Anderson, lives there, and the Broncos might be playing to go to the Superbowl, so I'm sure I'll find something to do.  (Best guess--I'll be signing books and making new friends.)

3. I received three very cool blurbs from some of my favorite authors.  Click on their names after their blurb to support them and their awesomeness, please.

"Not only is Don't Get Caught the best kind of underdog story---heartfelt and hilarious---but it's filled with genuine surprises up until the very last page, which features one of my favorite endings in recent memory. I'm highly inspired to prank someone right now." 
- Lance Rubin, author of Denton Little's Deathdate

"When we all least expected it, Kurt Dinan sneaks in, cons the guards and snatches the whole YA jackpot in this witty, charming and always surprising debut.   Call it OCEAN'S 11TH GRADE or whatever you like, DON'T GET CAUGHT snatched my attention and got away clean."
- Joe Schreiber, author of Con Academy and (one of my favorite novels) Au Revior, Crazy European Chick

"Teenage nobody Max "Just Max" Cobb is just my kind of narrator and DON'T GET CAUGHT is just everything I love about young adult fiction. It's funny and awkward and exciting and full of revelations and surprises. And even better it's real. Readers will feel Max's human heartbeat pounding on every page". - Josh Berk, author of The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin

4. I've had some great reviews on Goodreads you can read HERE if you're so inclined.

5.  As much as I hate writing curriculum in my job, I was more than happy to write a curriculum guide for the novel when asked by my publisher.  If you want homework, go HERE.

A Conversation with Marisa Reichardt, author of UNDERWATER

Intro stolen from another post I wrote:  I've gotten to know and really respect Marisa Reichardt in the last couple of months.  We share a similar writing style and approach to writing.  Her novel, which you can find HERE, deals with a school shooting, specifically the after effects to one witness who hasn't left her house since the tragedy.  It's an honest, thought-provoking, and funny novel that I'm certain will find a strong audience.  Below is a conversation I had with with Marisa a few weeks ago once I finished the novel.

Our interviewee: Marisa
Kurt: Okay, so it’s probably best to let your readers know something about you, so give us the lowdown in 50 words, and 50 words only.

Marisa:  I’m SoCal born and raised. I help students write college application essays. I prefer my coffee iced. I’m deathly afraid of snakes. And most importantly, I’ve always wanted to be a professional writer and now I am lucky enough to be one.  Look! Less than fifty words!

Kurt:  Errr…awkward…but the directions say “50 words only.”

Marisa: Ha! Already messed up question number one. Awesome.

Interview terminated.

[7 days later.]

Kurt: Out of the kindness of my heart, I will offer you a second chance, but only because I enjoyed UNDERWATER so damn much. 

Your novel deals with the fallout of a school shooting, but focuses on its impact on one person, Morgan, who’s become agoraphobic after the incident.  How did the novel come about in your mind -- did it begin as a “I want to write about a school shooting” or did it start with Morgan and her debilitating condition?

Marisa:  So. Okay. For sure my idea started with Morgan’s debilitating condition and then spun out from there. I knew I wanted to write about a teen with a high level of anxiety and I needed to figure out the “who what why” of it all.

Another jumping off point was that I was working on edits for a novel I’d written (it shall remain nameless and in the drawer, or perhaps the shredder). I was really hunkered down for a couple of months, working long stretches with no noise and my curtains closed to try to block out all distraction, and that’s where the idea started formulating about a character that doesn’t leave their house.

Put the two together, figure out what would’ve been the impetus for that—a school shooting—and Underwater started taking shape pretty quickly.

An excellent cover for an excellent novel.
Kurt: School shootings are such a hot button issue.  Was there any reluctance on your part of using that as the impetus for her self-imposed exile?

Marisa: It terrified me. I didn’t want it to be seen as a plot device. But I also knew the idea came from a very real and personal and honest place for me.

Kurt: Well, from my point of view, I certainly didn’t see it as a plot device, and I think it’s handled perfectly.  It really it just the jumping off point for the novel, and no one would ever describe the novel as a school shooting novel, just like no one in their right mind would ever describe To Kill a Mockingbird as a novel about a kid breaking his arm.  Your novel has a lot of what I would call “difficult” scenes that I know will affect the reader; they certainly did me.  How do you approach writing scenes like this?  Does it affect you and your mood, or are you good at compartmentalizing your writing from your life?

Marisa: Okay. I’m thinking about someone pitching To Kill a Mockingbird as a book about a kid breaking his arm now and wondering how that would go…

When it comes to my writing, I try to compartmentalize but it doesn’t always work. I will admit the headspace it took to write Underwater was rough at times but I think it’s a better book because I allowed myself to feel so deeply while I was writing it. But when I found myself feeling too hard, I’d take a break. Even if I had to take a couple weeks off, I did it. And while I’m mostly a pantser, I knew when those difficult scenes were coming so I’d prepare myself by always having a plan for something fun, like a reward, afterward. Lunch with a friend or a movie or something. A trip to the Bahamas. You know, the usual. (I’ve actually never been to the Bahamas).

Kurt: Wait, you’re a pantser?!  As a complete and total outliner, I have to ask--How in the world do you survive without an outline?!  Don’t you ever get stuck?!  Don’t you ever have to backtrack?! What is wrong with you?

Marisa: Yes. And yes. And I must have many things wrong with me to write this way.  But let me say I’m a pantser in that I don’t outline my books on paper. But I do know, in my head, a beginning, middle, and end. I definitely knew specific scenes and movement in Underwater and then wrote toward them.

Kurt: My thought of pantsers is you’re getting in a car and just seeing where the road takes you instead of vice versa.  So if you had specific scenes in mind as you started, I’m wondering if the book is what you initially thought it would be when you began?  Any drastic changes you ended up making along the way? 

Marisa: I love that car analogy. That is pretty accurate. While I did “travel” that way while writing Underwater, the story really didn’t take any drastic detours. But I think that’s because the scenes I had in mind were very specific plot points. I had probably five of them and all but one made it through the editorial process with my FSG editor to make it into the final draft of the book.

Kurt: What, if anything, are you hoping the reader takes away from your book?  Were you writing with any messages in mind?

Marisa: Of course I hope readers will take away that they read a book they enjoyed for one reason or another. Or many reasons. Who knows? But writing a book with purposeful messages in mind sounds vaguely like a cautionary tale, which I wouldn’t want to do. That being said, I do think Underwater is family-positive and therapy-positive and human-positive so I’d be happy if readers took those things away from the book.

Kurt:  It’s definitely therapy-positive, which I think is a good message for kids.  There’s also a good deal of empathy in the novel, as well, which we all definitely need more of. 

One of the things I really liked about the novel was your writing style, probably because I found it similar to mine in a lot of ways, but mostly because I’d call it “clean.”  I think a lot of novels these days are overwritten, cluttered with a lot of needless internal dialogue or even--ack!--description.   When you sat down to write, did you have a particular way you wanted the book to read?  Or, and maybe this is the bigger question, how did you develop your own personal style?

Marisa: Thanks for saying that about empathy. I did try to put myself in everyone’s shoes so to speak.

And oh, man. Writing style. I tend to be a sparse writer, which is probably why my first drafts come in waaaay under word count. And then I go back and fill in. And I’m a fan of one-word sentences so that leads to not a lot of words too. I think, in my mind, much of the style of Underwater, particularly in the beginning, lent itself to Morgan’s anxiety. There was sort of a staccato rhythm, a quickness, a pop pop to it, that in my mind, reflected Morgan’s panic, if that makes sense.

As far as developing my writing style, I majored in creative writing as an undergrad and I went through a grad school writing program so I think all of that helped me to develop my voice. And while I’ve always written sparsely and I’ve always loved poetry in language, Underwater was definitely the book where I kind of let it all fly.

Kurt: Was this your first book, or are there trunk novels?  I ask because I’m curious to know if all of your books are written this way?  I actually emailed my agent to ask if I was allowed to write my next book in a similar, sparse style.  (Yeah, I ask dumb questions sometimes and feel like a dope immediately after sending.)

Marisa: I love that. I’m sure her response didn’t make you feel dumb. Right?

I have two books in the trunk. The style is there for sure. You could probably find elements of that style in things I wrote as far back as high school. I think it’s constantly been developing and Underwater was the place where it finally all clicked. But trust me, I understand why the other two books are in the trunk.

Kurt: Which begs the obvious question--Looking at them now that you’ve sold a novel, what was wrong with those novels that made them not publishable?  What did you learn from those novels that helped make UNDERWATER “the one”?

Marisa: Oh, how long do you have? Plot and plot movement. Tension. Character development. Originality. All of it. I worked hard to do them better from Book One to Book Two and then from Book Two to Underwater. And here we are.

Kurt: Well, I have high hopes for Underwater.  Honestly, of all of the 2016 debuts I’ve read, it’s easily one of my favorites.  I wish you nothing but the best, and hope it finds a broad audience.

Marisa: Kurt! You are the nicest. Thank you. Really. I’m equally excited about Don’t Get Caught. The cover is definitely among one of the most intriguing I’ve seen.

Kurt:  Now, for the lightning round.  5 questions, 5 quick answers.  Think of it as a chance for your readers to learn things about you they otherwise wouldn’t.  Explain your answers, or don’t.  It’s up to you.  Here we go:

Time warp!  You’re 17 again, and find yourself living in an apartment suffering from agoraphobia.  What hunky actor from when your high school years are you hoping moves in next door?

Marisa: River Phoenix

(Died way too young, and opened the door for the inferior-abilitied Leo DiCaprio.)
Kurt:  Great news!  A reclusive billionaire has chosen you as her heir, but only if you can beat her in a board game of your choosing.  What game are you picking and why?

Marisa: Trivial Pursuit because even if I lose, I still get to play my favorite board game.

Kurt:  Terrible news!  Donald Trump has been elected Eternal President, and his first act is to bring back the Miss Universe Pageant.  His second act is to name you California’s representative.   The whole world’s watching…what’s your plan for the talent portion of the evening?

Marisa: Write a synopsis for a novel. This will probably leave only one contestant standing.

Kurt:  TV Transmogrifier!  A new technology will zap you into any TV show of your choosing.  What world are you zapping into?

Marisa: My So-Called Life. No contest.

Kurt:  Dinner party!  Besides friends and family, you can invite one rocker, writer, actor/actress, and, one miscellaneous person, all living, of course.  Who are you inviting?

Marisa: Rocker, Dave Alvin; writer: Curtis Sittenfeld; Actor: John Cusack; Actress: Amy Schumer; Miscellaneous Person: Shannon M. Parker because I can’t do anything without her.

Kurt:  Great answers!  And now, I’ll give you the final word.

Marisa: Rad.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 YA Books I'm Excited About in 2016*

As part of The Sweet 16 Debut Authors' group, I was fortunate to read a lot of arcs for novels that'll be out in the upcoming months.  I also did an interview with each of these author's that'll appear in the days leading up to their novels' release dates.  My advice: Mark your calendars and click Want to Read on your Goodreads account because there are a lot of great novels coming out in 2016.  (And yeah, I see now all of these are out in the first four months of the year.  Maybe I'll do another list if I read any arcs for novels coming out in the second half of the year.)

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp : January 5th

Well look at that!  This novel comes out today!  Not only was Nijkamp's novel the first arc I read, but we also share the same wonderful publisher, Sourcebooks.  This book about a school school has gotten a lot of well-deserved press and advanced promotion, and will blow you away with its honesty.   Oh, and I did an interview with Nijkamp that can found right below this post.

UNDERWATER by Marisa Reichardt : January 12th

I've gotten to know and really respect Marisa Reichardt in the last couple of months.  We share a similar writing style and approach to writing.  This novel also deals with a school shooting, but the
after effects, specifically to one witness who hasn't left her house since the tragedy.  It's an honest, thought-provoking, and funny novel that I'm certain will find a strong audience.

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN by Jeff Garvin : February 2nd

This novel does what a truly great novel should do--it made me empathize with it's main character with whom I don't have much in common.  The struggles of Garvin's gender fluid main character were quickly my own, and I can honestly say I have an understanding and perspective on a growing segment of society that I didn't have before.  That's quite an accomplishment.

AFTER THE WOODS by Kim Savage : February 23rd

I don't think there are enough YA suspense novels, and after reading Savage's novel of the aftermath of a violent attack on a girl in the local woods I'm hoping more start appearing on shelves.  Savage's novel is unflinching, brutal, and honest.

YOU WERE HERE by Cori McCarthy : March 1st

It turns out that not only do McCarthy and I share a publisher, but we also attended the same college, Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.  This novel, about a group of friends recreating the stunts of the brother of one of the members, takes place in that dead zone time after high school graduation and before college or whatever begins.  It's also a love letter to the quirky locales of Athens, specifically the old mental institution and the abandoned Moonville train tunnel.  Just a great novel.

SAVE ME, KURT COBAIN by Jenny Manzer : March 8th

Man, does Manzer have balls.  I mean, to take one of the rock's most beloved figures and have him figure prominently in her debut novel takes guts, right?  This novel isn't only for music fans though (duh), but anyone who has ever felt and emptiness and gone searching for answers.  I find myself thinking about this novel at odd times, and I think others will, too.

THE SERPENT KING by Jeff Ventner : March 8th

Religion, rock and roll, friendship, and the ties that bind...all are handled expertly here.  I read this months ago, and I still come back to Dill's struggles to come to terms with his family's snake-handling history and the pull between blood ties and following your own dreams.  Great stuff.

MY KIND OF CRAZY by Robin Reul : April 5th

When I ask my high school students what they want in a novel, they invariable mention the characteristics Reul has here: close friendships, a mixture of funny and serious, and teenagers who behave, act, and talk like teenagers.  This novel, about a failed prom-posal (yes, this is a thing) takes you in directions you'll never see coming.  Reul and I also are Sourcebook-mates, and this novel deserves to find a big audience.

SCARLETT EPSTEIN HATES IT HERE by Anna Breslaw : April 19th

It takes a lot in a book to make me laugh out loud (sad, I know), but Breslaw's novel did.  Scarlett Epstein maybe be a big name in writing fan fiction, but her real life is a mess.  Filled with fun pop culture references and memorable characters, this is guaranteed to make you laugh...or your money back!  (Okay, not really.)

Extra Bonus YA Book I'm Excited About:

Okay, so I'm not entirely sure if this is coming out in 2016, and I haven't read it yet, but after DENTON LITTLE'S DEATH DATE, I know the awesomeness that awaits.  Oh, and that cover?  Amazing.  Oh, and if you haven't read DLDD yet, you have a hole in your life and you don't even know it.  Go read it.

Super Bonus Non-YA Book I'm Excited About:
DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK by Paul Tremblay : June 21st

Again, I haven't read this novel yet, but I've read everything else Paul's written, including his most recent, the amazing A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS (yeah, the one Stephen Freakin' King said terrified him), so I know it's going to be excellent.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Book Review and Interview: THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS by Marieke Nijkamp

(Okay, this cover fits the plot and theme beautifully.  Whoever designed this gets the rest of the day off.)
Marieke Nijkamp's novel THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS tells the story of 54 minutes inside an Alabama high school where a senior is holding the student body hostage.  The novel is told from four distinct points of view, including the shooter's sister who's trapped in the auditorium with everyone else.  So high tension, right?  Right.

I'm always in awe of authors who can write "important books" that I actually enjoy.  Because let's be honest, "important books" can be, at times, a little heavy-handed to put it lightly.  The success of Nijkamp's novel is that it deals with important issues (not only school shootings, but also sexuality and abuse) while at at the same time remaining compelling and thought-inducing without become preachy.  That's difficult to pull off, really.  Also, the fact that I completed this novel in two days while surrounded by my four (loud, rambunctious, and attacking) children speaks volumes of just how much I enjoyed this book.

Really, what's amazing to me is how Nijkamp can cover such a short amount of time in a 300 page novel.  She does this with a lot of internal monologues that not only explain the necessary backstories of these characters that brought them to this moment, but also by exploring their dreams and fears.

THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is going to draw the attention it deserves, and I can't wait to make it available in my classroom, although I'm betting by the time I do, many of my students will have already read it.  Nijkamp has written an important novel that needs to be read by teens and adults alike.

Here's an interview I recently did with Marieke:

Me: Before we get to your excellent debut novel, THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS, let's start with you--I'm giving you 50 words max to introduce yourself...and go!

Marieke:  My bio says I am a storyteller, dreamer, globe-trotter, geek. And at the heart of everything, that’s me. I am also an author, activist, optimist. I’m a daughter, sister, aunt. I’m disabled. I’m queer. I’m religious. I believe in love, hope, the Oxford comma, and a sprinkling of magic.

Me:  That's an excellent and thorough list!  So of the items on that list, which are the top five that influenced in the writing of this novel?  And how?

Marieke:  Ooh, that is a great question! Let's see...

Storyteller - I've always loved telling stories, and I've always felt surrounded by them. Curiosity fuels me, because I'm constantly wondering what motivates people, what dreams and fears are hidden behind closed doors, why the world is what it is, and what it could be.
Sister - Sibling relationships are a massive part of this story and, in one way or another, of all of the stories I tell. 

Queer - Because seriously, we need more queer ladies as main characters of stories. And queer dudes. And queer people all across the gender spectrum. (On that note, we also need more genderqueer main characters.)

Love - When our world is turned upside down and nothing is ever the same again, I think most of us deal with fear, anger, denial, the whole gamut. But I also think that, in those extreme situations, we reach for our foundations, the things that matter most, familiar smells and sounds that stabilize us, and above all, for the people we love.

Hope - My stories explore darkness, not bleakness. The most important part of any story, to me, is hope.

Me:  Yeah, even though TIWIE is very dark, it definitely ends on a hopeful note.  I think a lot of writers shy away from tackling difficult and complicated issues but you certainly didn't, and the end result is a great success.  What struggles, if any, did you face while writing about a school shooting, easily one of the most complicated and controversial topic you can deal with in YA?

Marieke:  My biggest struggle was staying true to the characters and the situation. For every hour I spent writing, I spent another researching. I read first hand accounts of shootings, I listened to 911 calls, I plowed through hundreds of pages of investigative reports, I talked to people, I kept up with Twitter feeds as active shooter situations unfolded, I familiarized myself with the psychology of being held at gunpoint. As much as possible, I immersed myself in what we know about school shootings (which is both a lot and not a lot at all). And I tried to translate that to the book. 

Now, of course, THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is still fiction. The story isn't about the technicalities of a shooting; it's first and foremost about characters being put in a harrowing situation where their world is turned upside down. So I allowed for that, too, in the way the story unfolded. But I wanted to ensure that any poetic license remained respectful to real life.

Me:  A lot of teenagers will be reading this book, I guarantee it.  What do you hope they take from it?

Marieke:  Hope. THIS IS WHERE IT ENDS is no easy story, but like I said before, the most important part of any story, to me, is hope. My four main characters, Autumn, Claire, Sylv, and Tom├ís, face what may well be every student’s worst nightmare. A situation where nothing is safe and survival seems impossible. But even though it's a story of revenge, it's also a story of love. It's a story of anger but also friendship. There’s family. There’s sacrifice. And ultimately, there’s the belief that even when the world seems to have stopped turning, when everything has fallen apart, the darkness is never absolute. There is always hope.

Me: With this book about to come out, I'm guessing you've started work on the follow-up.  After writing something so powerful and heavy, did you find it difficult to detach from the novel to start the next one?  And without giving too much away, what similarities do you see between TIWIE and the next novel?

Marieke:  In this case, what really helped me detach from this story is knowing it's a book now, out there in the world. It's for readers now, to love, to hate, to connect to, to reject. It's no longer mine, and that's okay. As far as I'm concerned, that's the beauty of books. They exist in conversation between writer and reader, and I've said my part. :)

Besides, there's nothing quite like discovering a new story either. With new songs for new characters and new secrets to explore. And oh, there are secrets. It intrigues me that, more than all the things we do say, it's what we don't say or can't say that shapes us. So there are always secrets. And there's community. Death. Love. And fierce friendships that burn brighter than the stars.

Me: Best high school memory?

Marieke: One of my proms :) Specifically, the one I blogged about, here: :)

Me: Book that had the greatest influence on your writing?

Marieke: I think a lot of books have influenced my writing, because they were so formative for me as reader. But if I'd had to pinpoint a book that influenced the way I approached TIWIE, I'd have to say Elizabeth Scott's haunting, chilling LIVING DEAD GIRL. It's one of those books that challenged the way I thought about writing and the way I thought about YA.

Me: You've been sentenced to death for a crime you did not commit.  What is the menu for your last meal?

Marieke: Pigeon. I'm not even kidding. Every Easter, my gran used to make pigeon ragout and although I've been a vegetarian for about fifteen years now, that would still tempt me. 

Me: And now it's time for a dinner party!  You can have one writer, one musician, one actor/actress, and one miscellaneous person (all living, of course) at a dinner party.  Who are you inviting?  (Yes, your family and friends will already be there.)

Marieke: I'd invite Tonke Dragt, who wrote my very favorite book when I was a kid. I'd totally cheat on that "all living" stipend and invite Freddie Mercury, because how could I not? I'd also cheat on the "actor/actress" part somewhat and invite Stephen Fry. Not for his acting, but for the gazillion other things he does (and brilliantly so). And I'd invite JKR. Because duh.

Me: As always, I'd like to give you the last word.  Anything you'd like to say to finish this up?

Marieke: Thank you so much for having me! <3