The 14-Year-Old Middle Grade Protagonist

I came across Dianne K. Salerni’s  post about the “awkwardness” of having a fourteen-year-old main character in a novel for young people, and it struck a chord because, well, my main character is fourteen years old. Why is a fourteen-year-old protagonist troublesome? It boils down to an issue of category: there is middle grade (MG), for children ages 8 to 12 (or 10 to 14, on the upper end), and there is young adult (YA), for children/teens ages 12 to 18 (or 14 to 18, on the upper end). Additionally, children tend to like to read about characters a bit older than them. A book with a fourteen-year-old main character occupies an ambiguous position between MG and YA. Thirteen-year-old characters belong squarely in MG and fifteen-year-old characters in YA (I’m simplifying, of course, because the nature of the story and the book’s tone matter too), but fourteen-year-old characters? Unclear. The reason category matters is because bookstores have to shelve books somewhere. Ms. Salerni cites Barnes & Noble in particular and explains that she aged her main character down to thirteen from fourteen to make her novel unambiguously MG.

So, in Sparkers, Marah is fourteen. And for a long time, I actually considered my book YA. It wasn’t until I went on submission to publishers that I discovered it was being positioned as MG. I completely agreed with the reasoning, but I had to shift my conception of my novel a little bit. I’m actually happy Sparkers was declared MG because it inspired me to venture back into the children’s section of the library. I’ve since read many wonderful MG books I might not have read had my own book not been placed in that category.

Marah is fourteen for the very simple reason that I was fourteen when I started writing her story. (When I was younger, all my main characters were the same age as me.) Ms. Salerni brings up the fact that fourteen-year-olds (in the U.S.) are typically freshmen in high school, and high school students generally can’t be the protagonists of MG novels. When I began Sparkers, I was fourteen and in 9th grade, but I was still in middle school because of the way my school district split up the grades into buildings. Moreover, I had just come back from a semester in Paris, where the division of years was the same: I had been in 3ème, the fourth and final year of collège (middle school). The Ashari school system was directly inspired by my experiences in France, so of course Marah, despite being fourteen, is not yet in what we would call high school.

Like Ms. Salerni, I was asked on multiple occasions to change Marah’s age. Early on, I was advised to raise her age to fifteen because she sounded older than the text said she was. A little later, it was suggested that I reduce her age to thirteen because her story was that of someone younger. At this point, I threw up my hands and just made Marah fourteen again, like she’d been from the beginning.

Much later, my editor told me that Barnes & Noble (them again!) was concerned that Marah’s age made her too old for the store’s MG section. She asked how I’d feel about aging Marah down to thirteen. She gave me the option of keeping her age where it was, though, and that’s what I decided to do.

I find the desire to avoid fourteen-year-old characters a bit strange. I understand that fourteen straddles the boundary between MG and YA, but, after all, readers’ ages form a continuous distribution, so shouldn’t characters’ ages? If at some age children like to read about twelve-year-olds and at another age they like to read about sixteen-year-olds, there must be an age at which they like to read about fourteen-year-olds, right? It would be beyond weird if there simply were no fourteen-year-old protagonists in literature for young people.

In the end, I think it’s the individual character and their story, not their age, that determines a book’s categories. There are adult novels with child narrators. Penelope Lumley, the main character in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, is fourteen or fifteen, but those books are definitely young MG. If memory serves, the main character in The Miseducation of Cameron Post is fourteen for much of the book, but that novel is undoubtedly YA. So instead of considering fourteen a difficult age (in terms of categorization), maybe we should consider it a versatile age.

Sparkers Launch Party at Red Balloon

Today is the official publication day of Sparkers! It’s out in the world. It’s hard to believe this day has finally arrived, and yet today also feels like any other day. I’m grateful to everyone who has taught me, advised me, cheered me on, and kept me company along the way.

Last Friday, I had my launch party at Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. As I’ve mentioned before, this is the children’s bookstore where I met Eoin Colfer when I was in middle school. During my volunteer year, I lived in the neighborhood and loved being able to walk to Red Balloon whenever I wanted. It was a dream come true to have the Sparkers release party there.

A lovely crowd came out to celebrate with me, including much of my extended family, several of my high school friends, parents and siblings of high school friends who have left the Twin Cities, some of my parents’ friends, my 7th and 12th grade English teachers, my 5th, 9th, and 11th grade French teacher (and her friends from France!), a bunch of church members, two of my Beth Shalom housemates, my former boss at the interfaith advocacy organization, a bunch of my former colleagues from the non-profit/advocacy world, and my cello teacher. I was touched by everyone’s support and enthusiasm.

And now, a few photos from the party…




Me with books!


Red Balloon ordered this gorgeous cake, complete with edible glitter and a frosting violin


Me talking (and note Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen’s The Dark!)

friends in the audience

Friends, teachers, coworkers!


Hoping I’ve developed a consistent signature…


I’ve perfected the “little grandmother” look. (Photo by Laura C.)

Thank you to the Red Balloon staff for hosting such a wonderful party for me and thank you to everyone who came!

One Month to Go!

Sparkers comes out one month from today, and yesterday I received a copy of the finished book in the mail! You might be tired of seeing this cover by now, but this time that shimmery jacket is on an actual hardcover Sparkers and not a book on the history of English spelling. The cover of the book itself is a lovely midnight blue, and where the jacket spine has an eye, the book has a snowflake!




Well, okay, that is Spell It Out, disguised as Sparkers, on top.

Many Waters

First off, a bit of exciting news: Sparkers received a starred review from Kirkus! You can read it over there. I’m very happy!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming…

It’s rained about a foot in Minnesota in the month of June, making it the state’s wettest June since 1874. It was quite the change going from parched Southern California to practically underwater Minnesota, where lately the first question people ask upon running into each other is, “Is your basement flooding?” Too often, alas, the answer is yes. Or if not your basement, then your in-laws’.

Last Saturday, I attended the Minnesota Peony Society’s annual picnic (for which I served as Dessert Competition Registrar). It was held in a park where the line between land and lake had blurred:


Mallards enjoying the swing set


Lake Cornelia Fishing Pier


A school of minnows on a walking path

Then, on Sunday, my family went to see Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. The falls are on Minnehaha Creek, which flows into the Mississippi River. The creek reached a record high level last week, so the falls promised to be an awesome sight.

Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha Falls, on Minnehaha Creek

A kayaker went over these falls on purpose a few days ago for a stunt. I heard he broke his nose.


The creek itself is looking equally impressive these days. It’s not the time to go canoeing.


Raging Minnehaha Creek, just downstream of the falls

Me and the Falls

Me and Minnehaha Falls

Launch Party Date + A Mini-Rant

I’m excited to announce the time and place of my release party for Sparkers: Friday, September 26th, 2014 at 6:30pm at Red Balloon Bookshop in Saint Paul, MN! I lived just a few blocks away from Red Balloon last year, and its proximity was one of the best parts of living in that neighborhood. Red Balloon is where I met Eoin Colfer (when I was…12?) and Maggie Stiefvater (when I was 21). Back in October 2012, as Maggie Stiefvater dedicated my copy of The Raven Boys, I couldn’t have imagined that two years later I would be celebrating the publication of my first book in the same store. The party is still a ways off, of course, but feel free to mark your calendars.

Now for the (entirely unrelated) mini-rant. Last week, Slate ran a piece about young adult (YA) literature, something to the effect that adults should be ashamed of reading YA books. If you haven’t already read the article and want to, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding it (though in addition to the article itself your search will undoubtedly turn up scads of rebuttals–the piece hit a nerve). A new commentary lamenting the choices of the reading public and/or expounding on what’s wrong with YA literature appears every couple of months, so this wasn’t exactly surprising, but I think this deliberately provocative article particularly irked readers and writers of YA and middle grade (MG). Others have already responded to the Slate piece more deftly than I will be able to, but I can’t help sharing some of the thoughts I had as I read the article because it was so astoundingly condescending and at times so blatantly wrong that I was practically sputtering at my computer screen as I scrolled through.

First off, it alarms me that the author casually dismisses all genre fiction out of hand in order to focus on the only kind of YA books she is even willing to consider as potentially worthy of adult consumption, namely, YA contemporary. There is no reason why realistic fiction should automatically be elevated above science fiction, fantasy, etc. in either the adult or YA/children’s realm. I don’t believe in a hierarchy of genres. There are excellent books and less excellent books in every genre.

The author states that she didn’t cry when she read a certain bestselling YA novel about two teenagers with cancer. Great. Neither did I. She is entitled to find that novel occasionally eye roll-inducing, but there’s no need to be smug about it and imply that she’s more sophisticated than those adult readers who genuinely enjoyed the book.

The author sets up a clear dichotomy between YA novels, which have “uniformly satisfying” endings, and adult novels, which presumably have complex, ambiguous, or open-ended endings. This is kind of ridiculous. There are YA and MG books in which not every loose end is tied up*, and there are in fact whole classes of adult novels in which satisfying endings are de rigueur. Of course, it’s pretty clear that when the author talks about books for adults she’s only talking about serious, literary fiction (Literature with a capital L–however you define it), but if that’s the case, why single out YA novels for disparagement? Does she think adults should be equally ashamed of reading category romance or cozy mysteries (examples I give with caution, since I know very little about them)? My hunch is she does think so, but she doesn’t talk about it because it would undermine her argument that adults reading adult books = good and adults reading YA books = bad.

Then I got to this: “These endings are emblematic of the fact that the emotional and moral ambiguity of adult fiction—of the real world—is nowhere in evidence in YA fiction.” At this point, it became obvious that the author simply didn’t know what she was talking about. She can’t have read many books for teenagers or even for children. Because this sentence is flat-out false. When I read it, the first work that leaped to my mind was Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I am fascinated by these books in large part because they’re practically the epitome of “the emotional and moral ambiguity” that the Slate writer claims doesn’t exist in YA. A Series of Unfortunate Events isn’t even YA, it’s MG, which means it’s for even younger children.

For those not familiar with it, A Series of Unfortunate Events is about three siblings, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, who are delivered into the hands of a villainous guardian after their parents perish in a fire. The first few books chronicle their woes as they move from one incompetent guardian to the next, always being pursued by their first guardian, who is after their parents’ fortune. Part of the charm of the books is the narrator’s constant warnings to the reader that this tale is not a happy one. Many installments in the series end in the Baudelaires’ failure to accomplish what they had hoped. The guardians who love them die; their new friends are torn from them or betray them. As the series progresses, the line between heroes and villains blurs, and what previously seemed black and white collapses into murky gray. The Baudelaires find themselves making choices of dubious morality and even hurting others to try to escape their enemies and save themselves and their friends. They doubt their past decisions and are no longer proud of or comfortable with themselves. I’m afraid I’m making this sound very dry; the books are not, and you should read them! The point is, A Series of Unfortunate Events is rife with moral ambiguity.

I also point to this series to refute the claim that all books for young people have neat, satisfying endings. As I read Books 10, 11, 12, I wondered how Lemony Snicket was going to end things. He couldn’t come through with a happy ending in the final book because the whole premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events was that it was an unhappy story. An ending in which all was resolved would destroy the integrity of the series. But surely he couldn’t end with the Baudelaires’ ultimate defeat or even death because he had legions of young fans who would be crushed, right? I seriously wondered how Lemony Snicket was ever going to pull off a fitting conclusion to the series. But guess what? He did. The last volume ended not happily, not unhappily, but ambiguously. He left so many unanswered questions. And it was so right. It was the ending the series called for, and it proves that not all children’s books have simple endings.

When articles like the recent one in Slate come out, people sometimes respond by quoting Madeleine L’Engle (“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”) or Philip Pullman (“There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children’s book”). This makes me uneasy too. Not the quotes themselves, but the way in which they’re sometimes used, defensively, or sometimes even smugly. In such a context, these quotes imply that, actually, it’s books for young people that are superior. This strikes me as playing the same game as articles that exalt adult literature and denigrate YA or MG literature. Why should we even have this debate?

I read books for adults and books for children and teenagers. Admittedly, the vast majority of what I read is YA or MG. I feel like I never really left the teen section of the library. When someone tosses out that statistic about how half of all YA books are bought by people over 18 (some of whom may be buying the books for teens, of course), it usually takes me a second to remember that, oh, right, they’re talking about me. I’m one of those adult buyers now.

The thing is, reading YA doesn’t prevent you from reading adult literature too, and neither is inherently superior to the other. Why don’t we just respect everyone’s right to read what they like? If a sixth grader wants to read War and Peace, let her. If adults enjoy books for young people, more power to them. If you’re having snide thoughts about someone else’s choice of reading material (I know I have), that’s okay, but maybe keep them to yourself.

Did I say this was going to be a mini-rant? I guess it wasn’t so mini. Ah, well. Happy reading to all.

*Incidentally, School Library Journal‘s recent review of Sparkers counts my book among these when it says that “[n]ot everything is wrapped up neatly” in it. I was honestly a bit surprised, but I’m delighted someone might consider my novel a counterexample to the Slate piece’s claim that all YA and children’s books’ endings are tied up in a bow.

Sparkers Through the Ages: First Sentences

After mulling over the first sentences of all the novels in my apartment, I thought it might be fun to look back on how the first sentence of Sparkers had changed over the many drafts it went through (roughly eighteen over eight years, though it’s hard to say exactly). The answer, as it turns out, is not terribly much. The book has always started in about the same place (not counting the prologue, which I’ll get to). The opening sentence tended to stay the same through a bunch of successive drafts until some new revision prompted me to change it. Without further ado, here is the evolution of the first sentence of Sparkers:

First draft ever:

I poke my head into the office without knocking.

So, actually, back in the early days every chapter of the manuscript started with a brief dream Marah had had the night before, but we’re just going to pretend those never existed, okay?

Next three drafts:

I poke my head into the study without knocking.

Office is exchanged for study. Nothing much to see here. This is the first sentence of the manuscript I had when I started querying agents.

First revision for an agent:

In the morning, I escape the apartment to go to the Ikhad.

I think this is an improvement. There’s a greater sense of context, and we get a hint of the narrator’s attitude toward her surroundings. Maybe home is not her favorite place to be. The Ikhad, by the way, is a covered market that I think was inspired by one I saw once in the Dordogne.

A couple drafts later:

I escape the apartment in the morning.

Snappier, maybe? This is the first sentence of the manuscript for which I was offered representation. It lasted through three or so subsequent drafts.

Enter Prologue:

At this point, my agent suggested adding a prologue to the book. I was surprised since writers are so often told that agents (among others) hate prologues and that a story should start where the story starts. But I took the suggestion, and Sparkers joined the confrerie of fantasy novels that begin with prologues. So here is the first sentence of the whole book, as well as the first sentence of the first chapter.

Prologue: The first time I went to the Ikhad by myself, I was eight years old, and my father had just died.

This sentence actually never changed; it’ll be the opening of the published book.

Chapter 1: On a brisk morning in late autumn, I leave our fourth floor apartment on the Street of Winter Gusts and hasten through the quiet streets of our Horiel District neighborhood.  

This is still the same moment described in earlier drafts, but as you can see, the sentence has gotten way longer and more detailed. Proper names and adjectives everywhere!

Next draft:

Chapter 1: On a brisk morning in late autumn, I leave our fourth floor apartment on the Street of Winter Gusts.  

Evidently I decided I’d gone overboard in the last draft and chose to put in a period earlier this time.

Two drafts later:

Chapter 1: On a brisk morning in late autumn, I leave our fourth floor apartment on the Street of Winter Gusts and head for the Ikhad. 

The Ikhad is back! Just so you know where she’s going and all.

Final version:

Chapter 1: On a brisk morning in late autumn, I finish a shift at Tsipporah’s book stall and start across the bustling Ikhad. 

In this revision, I’ve shifted the moment when the book begins forward in time. Now instead of leaving for the Ikhad from home, Marah is already at the market. There is also another character mentioned, but she was introduced in the prologue. The first sentence of which, recall, is still the same as above!

We Need Diverse Books Campaign

Today marks the beginning of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, an initiative that involves making a splash on social media, engaging in discussion about diversity in children’s and YA literature, and taking action by buying books by and about people from marginalized communities. You can learn more about the campaign in the original Tumblr post here. I first heard about We Need Diverse Books through the wonderful Diversity in YA, and I decided to join in, so here goes:


This conversation is not new, but it’s one we can’t stop having. Not when people of color are vastly underrepresented in children’s books and among children’s book authors relative to their numbers in the United States. Not when book covers are being whitewashed in the 21st century. Not when kids and teenagers have trouble finding books featuring characters like them, characters who are disabled or mixed race or queer or working class or…

I think we need books for young people that portray authentically, not stereotypically, characters of all races, ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic backgrounds, body types, sexualities, gender identities, and so on. When children discover characters who are like them in books, they feel recognized and acknowledged and understand that they matter. When children read about characters who are unlike them, they are exposed to the true diversity of the world they live in, and they develop empathy.

I was lucky in that I didn’t grow up feeling like there were no books starring people like me. I read the Little House books and The Chronicles of Narnia and His Dark Materials, but I also had In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson and Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear and The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang. I read Laurence Yep’s Golden Mountain Chronicles. I can’t remember ever reading, as a child, a book about a character of mixed European-American and Chinese heritage, except for maybe one, but I wasn’t bothered by it. I don’t actual recall being very aware of race as I devoured books, and I never felt invisible. Like I said, I was lucky, and I was privileged.

But it’s heartbreaking to know that there are children in the U.S. today who believe that someone like them isn’t worthy of being the protagonist of a story or that someone like them can’t grow up to be a writer. And that’s what we need to change.

ARCs, Crêpes, and a Giveaway!

I received a package this weekend, and this is what was inside:

IMG_1355ARCs of Sparkers! These are not quite finished books, as you can tell by the notice on the cover, but they pretty much feel like real paperbacks. It was amazing to hold one for the first time!

IMG_1354In honor of this milestone in the life of Sparkers, I’m giving away one ARC. This is your chance to read the book months before it actually comes out! To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment on this post (and, if you like, tell me about a great book you read recently!). I will accept entries until midnight Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday, March 12th, 2014. Once the entry period has ended, I will randomly select one winner. If you win, I will contact you by e-mail in order to arrange for delivery. This giveaway is open internationally; if I can mail a book to you via the U.S. Postal Service, you can enter.

Please feel free to spread the word! I’m looking forward to sending one of these ARCs to whoever the lucky winner is. And remember that you can add Sparkers on Goodreads.

P.S. Yesterday, in celebration of Mardi Gras, I made crêpes. Here is one filled with blood orange marmalade:


Behold, the Sparkers Cover!

I’m very excited to share with you the cover for Sparkers! Here it is:


When I first saw this cover, I was delighted to see the snowy wood. You know how much I love snow. And the whole thing is just so atmospheric… I love the texture of the painting/drawing too. That’s Marah and Azariah tramping through the forest at night, and the cover does depict a specific scene from the book. It’s pretty magical to see how an artist you’ve never met imagines your characters and world and brings them to life on a book cover with your name on it, when for years your book has just been a Word document on your computer. The artwork is by Chris Sheban and the cover design by Nancy Brennan and Eileen Savage.

As you can see, Sparkers has a blurb from Ingrid Law, who wrote the middle grade novel Savvy. (Which I highly recommend, by the way. It perfectly combines the serious, sweet, and funny, and it does very well some things that I feel are too often not done at all in children’s books, namely, treating religion as an everyday part of life and including adult characters who are actually present and not clueless but also don’t keep the young characters from being the central actors in their own story.) In case the blurb is a little hard to read up there, here it is again:

“Rich with music, magic, and devotion to friends and family, the world of Sparkers will ignite your imagination.”
-Ingrid Law, author of the Newbery Honor Book Savvy

When I first received this blurb, I could hardly believe it. It makes me very happy. And as if that weren’t enough, I actually have a second blurb:

Sparkers will draw readers in to an incredible world where magic is real—and dangerous—but a brave pair of kids can make all the difference. The twists and turns and surprises kept me riveted all the way to the end.”
-Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The New York Times bestselling series The Missing

I’m amazed and thrilled. I have quite vivid memories of reading Haddix’s Among the Hidden and Running Out of Time when I was younger. (I mean, in the case of the latter book, imagine thinking it was the 1840s and then discovering that it’s actually the “future” and you live in a living history museum where tourists you can’t see are watching you go about your daily life. It left an impression on me.)

To go along with the cover, here’s the official description for Sparkers:

In the city of Ashara, magicians rule all.

Marah Levi is a promising violinist who excels at school and can read more languages than most librarians. Even so, she has little hope of a bright future: she is a sparker, a member of the oppressed lower class in a society run by magicians.

Then a mysterious disease hits the city of Ashara, turning its victims’ eyes dark before ultimately killing them. As Marah watches those whom she loves most fall ill, she finds an unlikely friend in Azariah, a wealthy magician boy. Together they pursue a cure in secret, but more people are dying every day, and time is running out. Then Marah and Azariah make a shocking discovery that turns inside-out everything they thought they knew about magic and about Ashara, their home. 

Set in an imaginative world rich with language, lore, and music, this gripping adventure plunges the reader into the heart of a magical government where sparks of dissent may be even more deadly than the dark eyes.

Also, I have a precise expected publication date now! September 30th, 2014. That’s almost exactly seven months from today.

I’m currently in the midst of reviewing first pass pages. This is the first time I’ve seen my book typeset, with pretty fonts and drop caps at the beginning of each chapter, and it’s quite exciting.

Wow, that was a lot of news! I’ll finish with one last thing: Sparkers is now on Goodreads, in case you are too.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes for a fantastic and fulfilling 2014!

Here is a highly selective overview of what I did in 2013 (pie is heavily featured):

In January, I baked a galette des rois for Epiphany, visited UC Santa Barbara, and went to the St. Paul Winter Carnival, where my hopes of seeing an ice palace were dashed.

No ice palace, alas, so this ice sculpture of the St. Paul Cathedral had to do.

No ice palace, alas, so this ice sculpture of the St. Paul Cathedral had to do.

In February, I spent a week in Istanbul with my family. Later in the month, my organization held its annual Day on the Hill at the Minnesota State Capitol, from whence I went straight to the airport to catch a flight to Tucson and the University of Arizona. Also: crêpes for Mardi Gras.

The Yeni Cami (New Mosque) at sunset

The Yeni Cami (New Mosque) at sunset

In March, I returned from a visit to UC San Diego just in time to attend my first Playford Ball.  I also went to open houses at Stanford, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA. So much flying. Oh, and I baked a pie for Pi Day.


In April, I went to a singing workshop given by the Georgian ensemble Zedashe and attended a Tim Eriksen concert. I decided on UCLA for grad school and traveled up to the Iron Range for the first time on a work-related trip. It snowed endlessly in Minnesota. Sparkers went on submission on April 30th.

On my way to the bus stop, one fine April morning

On my way to the bus stop, one fine April morning

I spent most of May on submission. I celebrated May Day in Powderhorn Park. On May 14th, I watched Gov. Dayton sign Minnesota’s marriage equality bill into law on the Capitol steps and then went out for ice cream with my housemates at Izzy’s, where we encountered Morris dancers! And then Sparkers sold at the end of the month! May was pretty great.

Minnesota State Capitol, May 14th, 2013

Minnesota State Capitol, May 14th, 2013

In June, I went to the all-night arts festival Northern Spark at the St. Paul Union Depot, where I watched a replica house burn down at 2 a.m.

Gives a new meaning to my title...

Gives a new meaning to my title…

In July, my volunteer year came to an end. I also recorded a short cello part for a friend, who hopes to produce pop-rock songs for a Mainland Chinese audience. Who knows, maybe he’ll become famous in China, and then I’ll be able to say I played the 18-bar cello line in that one song…

I made this rhubarb pie in July

I made this rhubarb pie in July

In August, I brushed up on my phonology and syntax and road tripped to California with my family, stopping at Mesa Verde and the Grand Canyon on the way.

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

In September, I moved into my new apartment in Los Angeles and promptly became a hermit while I worked on Sparkers line edits. I finished just in time to start grad school at UCLA.

Hello Kitty

I do not actually own this creature…

In October, I made a pumpkin pie for the Linguistics Department’s Halloween party. And I listened to the livestream of Osmo Vänskä’s last concert as the conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra


In November, I started this blog and had a joint birthday party with two other first-years in my program. The day after Thanksgiving, I attended my first high school reunion in Minneapolis.

Joint birthday cake

Joint birthday cake

In December, I finished knitting my second pair of socks ever and baked a chocolate tart for Christmas Eve dinner. And I read a lot of books! What could be better?


I have high hopes for 2014. Sparkers will come out in the fall. I can’t even really imagine what that’s going to be like, so I’m not going to try. Happy New Year!