The New Girl

Malinda Lo, Aprilynne Pike… and Kate Espey? If that last name is unfamiliar, that’s because Espey (pictured), a high school student in San Antonio, Tex., has yet to be published – but stay tuned. Author and editor Saundra Mitchell selected Espey’s story, “The Sunflower Murders,” as the grand prize winner from among 1,200 entries to the Defy the Dark New Author Contest sponsored by HarperTeen and hosted by online writing community Figment. Mitchell did not know Espey’s age until after she’d made her final selection. “The Sunflower Murders,” along with works by Lo, Pike, Carrie Ryan, Beth Revis, and others, will appear in the upcoming teen anthology Defy the Dark, which HarperTeen will publish in June 2013 in hardcover, trade paper, and e-book formats.

Direct Marketing

“I wrote this book and now I’d like you to buy it” is likely a phrase that runs through most first-time authors’ minds, though few go so far as to put those words to music. Author Mike Jung (above), however, has done just that. At the October 6 launch party for his debut, a middle-grade novel called Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities (Scholastic/Levine), he serenaded the 80 or so people in attendance at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore – among them his editor, Arthur A. Levine, who brought along his family – with an original composition on the ukulele . Of the book, PW said, “Jung’s fast-paced storytelling, filled with comics-inspired gadgetry and sound effects, makes the story’s action sequences come alive.

Animal Magnetism

Diane Lang (l.), whose Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved (Prospect Park Books) pays tribute to less-than-cuddly creatures, likes to travel with an unusual entourage – her Madagascar hissing cockroach and her tarantula, Terra. Lauren Gallegos (r.), the book’s illustrator, was unable to join Lang for most of her extensive fall tour, but met up with the author – and Terra – at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. Lang concludes a spate of California events this weekend, then heads east for various appearances, including talks and signings at the Connecticut Audubon Society in Glastonbury, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Rooting for the Home Team

Indie shop Longfellow Books in Portland, Me., hosted a launch party for illustrator Scott Nash (l.), who just authored his first middle-grade novel, The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate (Candlewick). More than 100 people were in attendance at the standing-room only event, among them several people from the Maine arts community, including author-illustrator Melissa Sweet (r.) of Rockport. In the lead-up to the October 5 launch, Nash worked on a window presentation for the shop, which is co-owned by Chris Bowe (center); the display included a gallery of illustrations, hand-sculpted figures from the book, and a recreation of the book’s flying ship, crafted by the author’s nephew.