It's Teacher Appreciation Week

I opened my email this morning and found this amazing message:
"I just wanted to extend a massive thank you. I have had a grueling two months filled with surgeries and unpleasant chemo strains. My escape? Reading. Your vivid stories have made my pain bearable as I escape into the escapades of your believable characters. They had me laughing when it didn't seem possible to laugh!  Thank you for sharing your talent with the world. I can't put into words how much it means to me and how much it has helped me."

Which seems like a great way to slide into a celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week. Just as writers only hear from some of the people for whom they'd made a difference, teachers often don't get feedback about their small and large miracles, or only find out years later when a student drops by. I know my daughter has touched a lot of lives. So have all of my teacher friends. Let's celebrate teachers this week, for real. Let's share stories of the amazing educators who have touched our lives. (And let's not forget that librarians are teachers.) To kick things off, here's a brief excerpt from the essay my daughter and I wrote (in the form of a dialogue) for a pop culture book on Ender's Game, where we discuss the impact teachers and writers can have.

D: Speaking of trust and intimacy, I find it fascinating that we get the shift to first person for Ender, Valentine, and even Bean, but not for Peter. Peter, alone, remains shadowy, never fully revealed by the tools of viewpoint. The problem is, writers can do all these brilliant things, and then they wait for someone to notice them. Writing is one of the most difficult art forms for those who crave a response. (I plead guilty to this weakness. Validation is my drug of choice.) If I paint or draw, I can get immediate feedback, or at least validation in the form of a gasp of delight when I unveil the canvas. If I compose, you merely have to sit back and listen. But if I want you to respond to a novel, I need patience on my part and cooperation on yours.

A: And this is exactly what teaching is like—the time and patience that go into guiding a student to becoming whoever she will be doesn’t have immediate rewards (aside from the occasional parent-mandated thank-you note at the end of the year).

D: Happily, most of your work stays in print for many decades. And if you teach for long enough, you'll even get to work on sequels.

A: And I frequently teach different editions. Sometimes I’ve taught several kids from the same family.

D: Of course, like most analogies, this one also offers interesting contrasts. A book reaches many people for a brief period (though the memory can last a lifetime). A teacher reaches fewer people, but for a prolonged interaction.

A: As a teacher, you may change a student’s life (for better or worse!) but part of the job is being ok with the idea that you might never know the impact you have. I can see how writers and teachers are both creators, but with a teacher, so much depends on the student herself. Two autonomous agents are working toward (again, hopefully) the same goal—learning, growth, and development. Creating a future.

One more thought for my teacher friends. Whenever I see someone post "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach." I like to respond, "Those who can't think, quote."

You have the right to freeze peach

"You have the right to freeze peach!" And I will defend that right 'til your last dying breath.

Wait. That doesn't sound right. Hang on -- I need to check something. Okay, it looks like I misunderstood one of our rights. Which brings me to my mini rant about a major issue:

This is the opening of a letter to the editor that was published in my local paper: "No matter how loathsome or despicable one may find Donald Sterling's rants, under the First Amendment he is entitled to make them." The writer goes on to suggest that Sterling should sue the NBA for violating his rights.

One of the reason we have so many economic and social problems in this country is that so many people have no idea what they are talking about. Anyone who has actually read and understood the First Amendment would know that speech is protected from government intervention, not from corporate reactions.

Some people seem incapable of reading and understanding a simple sentence such as this: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Or they are too sure of their knowledge to bother looking up the amendment before citing it. This attitude gets us into even more trouble when people try to use half-remembered or mis-remembered Bible passages as a basis for laws.

Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies launches today!

A Seventh Serving of Tasty Tales

Find out the secret behind the zombie apocalypse, discover the downside of going Goth, learn why there's a monster under the bed, and savor a revealing form of bio-engineered revenge. This is just a hint of the warped, creepy, and funny contents of the newest Weenies collection.

"With its mix of humor and chills, this collection is a sure bet for fans of R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and reluctant readers."

"More than 30 strange short stories will astound middle graders with tales that have endings from the mildly puzzling to the gruesome and bizarre."
School Library Journal.

"His stories are charming, witty, frightening and often, hilarious."
Little Miss Trainwreck

"A fine addition to the short story collection and a must-have for Weenies fans."
Brenda Kahn

"This seventh collection of tales from Lubar will delight elementary school students, so it is a must purchase for elementary libraries."
Ms. Yingling

"They're amazing stories by an amazing author."
Frisco Kids

Available at bookstores nationwide, and from all major ebook vendors.

Order it from
an independent book store,
or find your nearest store.

Buy it at

Buy it at

Wireless promotion, part 1 of N

I'm about to head out to the Clinton Book Shop for my first signing for Wipeout of the Wireless Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales. Since I'm focusing my promotional efforts on this title, I figured it would be interested to keep a journal of my experiences, via this blog. (Though I may switch to some other form of social media if a better venue comes to mind.)

Dying snakes and leafless trees

As always, I make note of National Poetry Month with this excerpt from Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie:

     My public speaking efforts didn't attract any more attention than my writing. Nobody who didn't already know me said anything to me in the halls. Well, I'd given it a shot. And at least I hadn't written my speech as a sucky poem. Elections were in a week. Guess I'd find out then how my idea worked.
     In one of those weird coincidences, Mr. Franka started out class the next day by saying, "How many of you don't like poetry?"
     Many hands went up. Including mine.
     He passed an open book to a kid in the front row. "Read that out loud."
     The kid started reading this poem about a guy freezing to death up in the Yukon. It was pretty cool. Mr. Franca grabbed
another book and handed it to a girl. She read a short, funny poem about a pelican. Then I got to read one called "On the Naming of Cats." I liked it.
     After we'd heard three or four more poems, Mr. Franka said, "There are as many types of poems as there are types of food. As many flavors, you might say. To claim you don't like poetry because you hate 'mushy stuff' or things you don't immediately understand is like saying you hate food because you don't like asparagus."
     He looked around the room again. "So, who can at least tolerate poetry?"
     All the hands went up.
     "Let's visit Xanadu." He gave us a page number in our textbooks. "Read 'Kublah Kahn' to yourself. Listen to the music. Let Coleridge speak to you."
     I started reading, and was hooked by the fourth line.
     Mr. Franka read us another poem, called "To Augusta." This one was sort of mushy, but even so the words sounded pretty cool. They flowed, like good music.
     "Byron," Mr. Franka said, closing the book. "You've all heard his work, whether you realize it or not. She walks in beauty like the night. You can't tell me that line doesn't kick butt. Byron even wrote a poem filled with ghosts and vampires."
     That caught my attention. Before I could ask about the poem, he said, "I won't tell you the name. If you really want to find it, you'll have to hunt it down. Or should I say, haunt it down?"
     From there, he skipped around to some of his other favorite poets. Not once during the whole class did Mr. Franka utter those deadly words, "Now, what does this line mean?" He actually let us enjoy the poems without analyzing them to death. As he told us, sometimes a dying snake is just a dying snake. Sometimes a leafless tree is just a tree.
     At the end of the period, he said, "April is national poetry month That's why we're reading poetry in October."
     I couldn't resist. I raised my hand and asked, "So what are we going to study in April?"
     He flashed a smile at me and I felt doom approaching. I knew that smile. It's the one you get when a fish that's been nibbling at your bait for five minutes finally gulps it down. "Thank you, Scott."
     "What for?"
     "I usually let the first person who asks that question make the decision about what to study in April. Congratulations. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. Let me know your choice by mid March."
     Great. Just what I need -- a chance to get an entire English class pissed at me. At least the typical honors English student was a bit less threatening than the typical defensive lineman.

Find out more about the book here:

In which I allow myself to enjoy being viewed as less than perfect...

So I'm calling "bullshit" one anyone who insists that anything less than five stars is an insult or a transgression. I'm calling it on myself, too, for a near miss. I just read a delightful review of The Wavering Werewolf that was filled with praise and wonderfully blurbable lines. (E.g., "The plot is delightful...") As my inner PR monster was getting ready to spam the link across the universe, I noticed that there were a series of grades on the side of the web page. I got a B in most categories. (The cover got the highest grade.) That was enough to make me hesitate about posting the link. And that's bullshit. An honest B is a great grade. Do I think the book is an A? Yeah. But I'm biased. And the truth is, there are others out there who might give it an A, or an F. If this review gets me some new readers, that's awesome. I give it an A+.

Its time to shout down anti-ACA lies

I haven't written a blog post since last August. I posted the following on Facebook, but felt it was worth trying to reach a wider audience.

Okay, the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a report stating that 65% of small businesses "might" see higher health-care costs under the ACA. CMS also stated that their report contained “a rather large degree of uncertainty.” On top of which, cost rises will generally be smaller than cost reductions, since the highest premiums before the ACA were paid by companies with the oldest workers and with the most women. So, what headline do we see all over the Internet? Bullshit like: "CMS: Premiums Will Rise for 11M Small Business Workers Under ACA." It is all over the Internet. And it is just one of the many lies, distortions, and half-truths being spread. Lots of people will see the headline and not bother to read further. Lots of people will point to it and say, "See, that black commie is destroying our great country." It's time to shout down every lie. Please share this. It's not pretty or cute, there are no cats, and it doesn't ask you to name a fruit that only has one vowel in it, but it's about as important a truth as there is, when it comes to the ACA.

Why Extremities Matters to Me And Why It Should Matter to You

Why Extremities Matters to Me

And Why It Should Matter to You


Through a combination of luck, hard work, and talent (listed in descending order of importance), I have the good fortune of making a fair portion of my living doing something I love very much -- writing short stories. Before you feel even a twinge of envy, let me add that I earn an equivalent portion speaking in steamy gymnasiums crammed with seventh graders. I have more than 200 stories out there, including many contained in the six Weenies collections for middle graders. I should be happy. I am happy. But I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to share my older, darker stories with the world. Some of them were written intentionally. (Years ago, I was asked to contribute a story to a Christopher Pike anthology. At one point, he decided to write all the stories himself.) Others just sort of came out that way, which is fine with me. I'm always delighted when my work horrifies me.

So, there I was, with a passion for short stories that had been nurtured during a childhood reading science fiction magazines, story collections from the great SF writers, and anthologies from the great SF anthologists. I knew with certainty that the world would devour these stories if they were available. (Writing requires a certain degree of certainty about uncertain things.) Several of them appeared in anthologies, and two were featured on that excellent site, iPulpfiction.

By the early part of this century, I was well known enough that I could comfortably pitch an idea to any editor I encountered. I repeatedly had the following experience.

Me: Can I pitch something to you?
Them: Sure. We'd love to put you on our list.
Me: It's a young adult
Them: (eyes widen hungrily)
Me: horror
Them: (eyes wider, lips licked)
Me: story collection
Them: (POOF -- leaving Wiley Coyote staring at a dust cloud.)

This happened over and over. Nobody wanted the collection, because STORIES DON'T SELL. I think this is one of the most brutal self-fulfilling prophesies in publishing. There are exceptions, including my own Weenies collections. But stories are a hard sell. On top of the industry resistance, there's a second problem. Students are fed a lot of literary fiction in school. And much of that fiction is plotless.

Finally, around 2002, I found an editor who liked nine of the stories. He told me that as soon as I wrote a tenth story that he liked, he'd give me a contract. For two years, I sent him stories, none of which did the trick. Finally, I confronted him with the possibility that he really didn't want to do this book, and was just stringing me along. He admitted that this was the case.

The collection sat dormant for a while. (When one bangs one's head repeatedly against a brick wall, an occasional break is called for.) Then, I had a minor brain storm. I'd envisioned the book as a traditional horror collection. But some of the darker stories on my hard drive weren't supernatural. A title hit me: Extremities: Stories of Death, Murder, and Revenge. I pitched it to an editor I knew. She was eager to see the manuscript. She promised a reply by a certain date. When the deadline passed, I showed it to another editor who happened to contact me about another matter. A week later, I received offers from both editors at the same time.

After a bit of panic, I went with the first house, Marshall Cavendish. The book was scheduled for 2013. In early 2012, Amazon bought Marshall Cavendish. I am not a fan of Amazon. I bought the book back, and begged Tor, who publishes the Weenies collections, to think about publishing it. (They already had a large list of my books in the works, and originally passed on this one.) To my relief, they agreed. Not only did they take over the book, they threw all their expertise into making it look as amazing as possible, including a gorgeous cover and thirteen stunning illustrations. I am, indeed, a lucky guy.

So, this is why I care so much about the book. I fought, battled, cajoled, begged, and maneuvered. It is finally coming to market. Early reviews, especially from teens, have been great. But there is still a lot of resistance to story collections. I need this book to do well to show the publishing industry that there is a place for short stories (and to validate my decision to walk away from the marketing power of Amazon and place my trust with the real-world book sellers). I love stories. I'll keep fighting for them. I will be an evangelist. If you love stories, please think about picking up a copy of the book for yourself, your favorite teen, or your local high school or public library.

Read the first story here:

Maya Unangelic -- a response to false cries of racism

Debbie Reese, who appears to make a profession out of getting offended, recently posted a blog attacking Jon Scieszka for having the kids in his Timewarp book, Oh Me Oh Maya, think of Mayan ruler Kakapupahed as Cacapoopoohead. That's fine, in and of itself. We are free to complain about anything. But the way she did is is not fine, for many reasons. She recently made a blog post, linking Jon's actions with those of the hoaxers who made fun of the Asian pilots' names in the Asiana crash, and shared the link on YALSA-bk. Here's that post:

The first problem is that she made the same basic post seven years ago, likening Jon's very same single-word joke to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.

This is not socially-conscious criticism. This is an obsessive vendetta over a ridiculous complaint. Jon makes fun of a ruler in every single Time Warp book. (E.g., Hatsnat in ancient Egypt, Owattabutt in feudal Japan, Boog in the Stone Age,) There are no Mayans around. And, from what we know, that might be a good thing. They performed mass sacrifices of children for religious purposes. Now, that I find offensive.

Ms. Reese complains that the book teaches readers that "Mayan's are fools who can be easily tricked." But, in the very same posts, she says that the evil priest is tricked "with the help of one of his relatives and her son." Which is it? Are they stupid. Or are they clever. They can't be both. Wait -- yes. They CAN be both. Just like any other people. Some are smart, some are stupid. And some have funny names.

As someone who has been called Jewbar, and who grew up experiencing real racism, I don't see "Cacapoopoohead" as racist. I see it as funny bathroom humor. When I see Chichen Itza, I instinctively think "Itza Chicken!" Does that make me a racist? Hell no. It makes me a punster. I will make fun of names from any culture, including my own. Just ask Joe Lieberschmuck.

This twice-told attack on Jon Scieszka is so misguided, I had to speak out. Yes, may of us had people make fun of our names as we were growing up. But this Maya example is not the same thing. And it sure as hell isn't like a Mel Gibson movie or an Asian-name hoax. The whole think reeks of an attempt to get attention by going after a large target. I'm not gong to sit by in silence when a friend and fellow author gets attacked in such a shameless way.

Never Forget

I have a very small extended family. I might have had more, but Hitler's supporters killed my grandmother's two sisters. At least, that's pretty much what she thinks happened, since they were taken to camps and she never saw them again. She was lucky enough to escape. My wife's Belgian Catholic mother was almost sent to a work camp, but she managed to get a letter from her doctor that somehow spared her. Twelve million people were killed by the Nazis. Six million of those killed were Jews. And, of course, anyone who cares says, "Never forget." But here's the sad thing. Many people have already forgotten Newtown, which happened less than four months ago. The death camps were liberated about 820 months ago. We, as a people, do forget. On this day of remembrance, no matter what your nationality or faith, take a moment to imagine yourself rounded up and packed into a cattle car. Imagine your children take away. Imagine your home looted. If you are reading this, you are probably living in a place where such atrocities will never happen to you. But you are probably also living in a place where you can make a difference. If you save one child from a bully, if you help educate one person who is hungry for knowledge, if you raise one voice against tyranny elsewhere in the world, if you help one racist move away from hatred, you are doing more than remembering the past, you are changing the future.