From Books

This one goes up to eleven.

China Miéville said this about Joan Aiken: “If that kind of writing hits you at the right time when you’re a child, the impact is like nothing else ever. Maybe it’s pure ego, but there’s something incredibly intoxicating about the idea of trying to do that.” *

This is true. Writing for kids is as intoxicating as it is wildly ambitious. It’s like shooting the moon in a card game, or deciding to land on the moon as a career choice. It’s the same kind of mad ambition that kids themselves have when they expect to become astronauts.

My agent Joe Monti once asked me the age of my inner child, and I said “Probably eleven.” Ten is double-digits, and therefore huge and important. Twelve is a number of great folkloric significance. Eleven is stuck in between, unsure, just figuring things out—but still ambitious enough to want to be an astronaut. And I have never loved books more than I did then.

When I was eleven I read Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of EarthseaLe Guin recently blogged about my first novel, Goblin Secrets. She said “I wish I could have read it when I was eleven.”

Maybe it’s pure ego to mention this, to jump up and down shouting that Ursula K. Le Guin approves of my book. Probably. I have, um, mentioned it on Twitter a couple of times (and also announced it in public places while running around in circles, arms flailing like a happy muppet). But there’s something else here, something I find overwhelming and intoxicating. She said eleven. She wished she had read my book at exactly the same age that I first read hers.

I usually devote this blog to earlier bedtime stories, but right now I want everyone to remember the books they read at eleven. Some of you will immediately think of Aiken and Le Guin. Now go pick up a copy of Wolves, or Earthsea, or whatever it was, and give that book to a kid of your acquaintance.

The impact will be like nothing else ever.



* The Miéville quote is from a Locus interview, but I got it by way of Amy Butler Greenfield’s Enchanted Inkpot post about The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.


Ursula K. Le Guin

As I’ve written elsewhere, one of the very wisest voices in contemporary literature is Ursula K. Le Guin. Her fiction (and poetry, and essays) have shaped and reshaped my sense of story. She recently read my novel Goblin Secrets, and this is what she had to say about it:

It was hard to stop reading Goblin Secrets, and I didn’t want the book to end! The author’s imagination is both huge and original, taking us to a truly new place, rich with  lively, vivid scenes, fascinating people, and marvelous inventions. He doesn’t explain things, yet everything is clear. And he tells his fast-paced story in language that’s a pleasure in itself — subtle, tricky, funny, beautiful.  More, please, Will Alexander! 

-Ursula K. Le Guin

You know the happy dance that muppets do, with little muppet arms flailing? I’ll be doing that for the next several hours…


I don’t yet have a bedtime story memory from Le Guin, but on the topic of early influences she credits Lord Dunsany’s Dreamer’s Tales for showing her the way to her native country. Go find “A Citizen of Mondath” in The Language of the Night if you want to know more–and I know that you do.


The First Story I Remember

My book exists. It moves through the world. Total strangers might be reading it right now.

I’ve been interviewed twice this week; once by Nancy Holder, author of novels and comics and books about Buffy, and once by Megan Kurashige, writer/performer and fellow Clarion grad.

Here’s the first interview at The Enchanted Inkpot.

Here’s the second at Fantasy Matters.

It was strange and entertaining to be interviewed. Both sets of questions made me remember all sorts of things about my book and the writing of it that I had completely forgotten. And then Megan went and asked my very favorite question, the one that started this blog:

MK: You curate a wonderful collection of bedtime story memories on your blog. What is the first bedtime story you remember?

WA: Ha! I’ve been asking authors this question for years. It was only a matter of time before someone asked it back at me.

My parents had different gifts when it came to bedtime stories. My mother was much better at reading them. She did the voices. My father was better at making them up on the spot. He got bored while reading aloud. His mind would wander and his voice would slip into monotonous autopilot. But he told far better stories if he got to use his own words.

The very first one I remember was about Flash Gordon. We had just watched the movie adaptation at the drive-in (the silly one with the Queen soundtrack, starring Brian Blessed’s teeth). I was convinced at the time that a) the events of the movie had actually happened, and b) that Dad would know what happened next. So I demanded an immediate and swashbuckling sequel, and he made one up.


Twin Citizens! Next month I’ll be celebrating the launch of my debut novel Goblin Secrets with a wide variety of Minneapolitan events. For more about the book itself, please browse over here.


Tuesday, March 6th
Magers & Quinn
7:30 pm

Wine! Cheese! Mostly grownups! Kids welcome too, of course. On this day the book will be officially released into the world, and I’ll celebrate at the bookstore that used to employ me.

Friday, March 9th
Blue Ox Cafe
7:00 pm

A pair of brilliant actors from HUGE Improv Theater will join me in a dramatic reading of a Goblin Secrets chapter.

Saturday, March 10th
Wild Rumpus
1:00 pm

An afternoon reading surrounded by the furry and feathered denizens of Wild Rumpus. I wish I had known about this place as a kid. I would have made a serious attempt to hide in the walls somewhere so I’d never have to leave.

Sunday, March 11th
Uncle Hugo’s
1:00 pm

An excellent store to get lost in. One half is dedicated to fantastical literature, and the other half is filled with mysteries. I’ll be lost somewhere in the Fantasy & Science Fiction half.

Saturday, March 17th
DreamHaven Books
7:00 pm

This grand and climactic event will be a group reading and panel discussion by my entire writing group, Symbolical Head, comprised of Barth Anderson, Haddayr Copley-Woods, David Schwartz, and Stacy Thieszen. All of them write magnificent things, and DreamHaven itself is a magnificent place.

Sunday, March 18th
Blue Ox
9:00 am

Masks and other theatrical things feature heavily in Goblin Secrets, and this morning event will be dedicated to mask making. You can preview the masks here. There will also be coffee, and you should know that the Blue Ox brews dreams from the very finest beans.