Monday, May 3, 2010

So, um... hi. Is this thing on?

It's been a long time since I've posted. (Actually, it's been a long time since anyone has posted, hasn't it?) But Bethany prodded me on Facebook recently, wondering where I've been hiding.

This will bring you up to speed:

I'll wait here. Then maybe we can talk about those speed bumps we encounter on our way to publication, k?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year, New Goals

My academic pursuits have become a sorry excuse for me to avoid my writing. Gone are the days of finishing up a chapter before midnight--I'm cramming for physics class instead. I can no longer doodle character sketches in my English notebook--I need to ace my state exams.

Over 2009, my writing slid to the back burner as I took a hiatus from traditional high school and volunteered abroad. Was it worth it? Of course. I sacrificed a social life and sophomore year for an incredible opportunity I look back on with longing. But I never anticipated 2009 to lack what I love best about my life: my writing. I lugged my old laptop across continents hoping to find the perfect setting for my next novel. My idea of the perfect getaway, crammed with action and quirky people, left me exhausted and jet-lagged.

I'm determined not to let my writing slip past me again. I'm now employed as a reporter (woohoo!) and I need to take my writing to the next level. I may be concentrating a tad bit less on my novels, but I'm determined to do it all. My family has always joked that I'm a jack-of-all-trades with seven million hobbies, but this year, I'm going to prove it!

My goals for 2010 are simple: conquer my latest novel and polish my clip portfolio. I'm excited and enthusiastic about my job and eager to prove myself. As for my novel, I've waited until I thought I was skilled enough to tackle a new genre and my favorite plot. Can I do it? I'll find out next New Year's Eve.

What are your writing goals for 2010? Ambitious, or are you going to take a year to learn as much about life as you can for novel fodder? Are you going to tackle fiction, non-fiction, or both?

We'll face the new year armed with our goals. 2010 is going to be awesome.

(I hope.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Inbox (1)

Oh, Gmail,

How that little (1) can send my heart into palpitations. How I can't resist the lure of that shiny new e-mail. How much you promise me two days after I status queried about a full. How I anticipate that you may have news on a request, even though the sender's name says "intern," and I know no agent with my manuscript has yet sent me anything through interns. This could be the time. There could be a reason. I click, anxiously, wondering what news you bring. Hoping you are not the dream agent who's had my full novel for three months and would only send through interns if she was form rejecting. I hold my breath....

Hmm, a query rejection from an agency I barely remember querying. Oh, Gmail, how you have fooled me with that precious (1). I shall not be fooled agai--

Oh, my! "Inbox (1)." My heart skips a beat.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Edgy YA again!!!

Okay, so next weekend I'm presenting at the KY librarian's conference, and my subject is getting kids to read with edgy YA. I'll be presenting with something similar in November at the SCBWI midsouth Schmooze in Louisville.

If anyone would like to be quoted in my presentation, please tell me either (or both)

your definition of edgy/edgy in YA, an example of YA you think is edgy, and or what you think is appealing about this type of literature to some (particularly reluctant) readers.

Thanks so much! I plan to post the presentation on my blog, as well.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

SCBWI Midsouth Conference Blog

YAYA contributors Amanda K. Morgan and Suzanne Young are live-blogging SCBWI Midsouth in Nashville starting September 25th. Follow their blog for all the juicy gossip. (I mean, that's why I'm following it. You might want industry news or whatever.)

Check it out!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

This shouldn't even be necessary...

...but if I have to read one more thread/post/article/thing wherein the author of said thread/post/article/thing does not know that there is a difference between children's literature, MG and YA, I'm going to go into conniptions. I have to get this off of my chest.

Now, for those of you who do not follow Editorial Anonymous, YOU SHOULD. Her blog is geared towards those of us writing in the children's/MG/YA genres and contains tons of useful information about the genre and distinctions between the different "levels" of writing for those of us under the age of 18. In her words:

I'm a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to these designations. I just don't care what "chapter book," "middle grade," or "YA" are currently supposed to mean. Why don't we simply speak in terms of ages, or grades?

That is, I think, a great way to identify your audience (ie: girls ages 11-13, or boys ages 15-17). However, since you need to correspond to the industry conventions when you're querying, I'm going to try to break this down in nifty list format, as is my way.

DISCLAIMER: The ages used as examples in these definitions should be treated as such. Also, unfortunately there is a lot of bleed over between children's literature and MG, and between MG and YA. It's confusing as hell and I'm not going to spend a boatload of time going through all of the exceptions. These are just rules of thumb.

1. CHILDREN'S LITERATURE: This is a messy term. It can mean, in various contexts, "all writing for those members of the human race who are currently not the age of majority" or "all writing for those members of the human race who are currently not over 10 years of age." This means that the agent who says she reps "children's literature" might represent anything from picture books to YA, and, generally, you can assume that she does unless she specifies otherwise.

I'd like to see "children's literature" correspond directly and without any muzzy edges to the second definition I provided. This means that it would include things like picture books, chapter books, and novels written for kids. (Think the books that are available at the Scholastic Book Fairs for elementary school students.) There are things you shouldn't write about in children's literature. Dropping the f-bomb is probably a no-no. So is negative characterization of parents and "trusted adult" types.

Children's literature (of the second type) is not MG. However, some may choose to read MG while they are still considered children's lit readers by the publishing world. This is perfectly fine. You should write your children's books with your intended audience in mind and let the individual reader decide what she wants to read.

2. MG: Stands for "middle grade." Should remind you of the term "middle school." MG is generally considered to be literature for those humans with 11-13 years of life under their belts. MG is not children's lit and it isn't YA lit either, and that seems to cause a lot of confusion. In MG, I would still, personally, be hesitant to tackle some of the issues we have no problem with tackling in YA lit - or, at least, tackling them in the same way. In MG literature, the author should generally have a negative view of "edgy" goings-on. Drugs can be taken, but they lead down a bad road. Flirtation can occur, but there should be no sex. Cursing and swearing is limited to things like "piss-face" and "dang!". If you want a good example of how to incorporate swearing into MG, I would look at the early Harry Potter books. And the later Harry Potter books, for that matter, to see the transition between fakey-swears and full-out-swears.

This seems to be the genre everyone forgets when talking about literature for under-18s. REMEMBER THAT IT EXISTS. Correct people when they tell you that their novel geared towards 12 year-olds is YA. Explain to people the difference when they complain that there is nothing in the YA section for their 13 year-old to read.

MG literature is not YA. However, some may choose to read YA while they are still considered MG readers by the publishing world. This is perfectly fine. You should write your MG books with your intended audience in mind and let the individual reader decide what she wants to read.

3. YA: Stands for "young adult." Emphasis on the "adult." You may write whatever you damn well please in a YA novel as long as you can write about it in a novel written for an adult audience. This means that anything with bestiality (or water sports, or graphic incest...), bloody graphic violence, and overly explicit sex (I will not answer what qualifies as explicit because you are all intelligent people and should know. If you really want a rule of thumb, it should probably not resemble this: "PENIS PENIS PENIS PENIS COCKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!" K?) will be a hard sell. You may use your discretion. Everyone has different opinions on what is appropriate or not in YA fic, but then again everyone has opinions on what is appropriate or not in adult fic as well.

The major distinction between MG and YA comes in two parts: first, the "coming-of-age." I define coming-of-age as having to deal with adult problems with a teenage mind. Remember the scene in Juno when she comes back home after learning that the potential adoptive father of her unborn child has decided to get a divorce? Her father asks her what she's been up to, and Juno responds: "Oh, nothing. I've just been out dealing with things way beyond my maturity level." Bam. Coming-of-age. Second, the edgy stuff I talked about previously is no longer dealt with in black and white terms. Now the characters are exposed to drugs, sex, and rock 'n' roll, and they decide for themselves how they feel about them.

So there it is folks. Rant over. Hope this cleared things up for some of you.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Six (Super Short) Reviews

Hello Readers!

Today I have a new kind of post for you. Instead of taking the time to write a lengthy review for each of the books I've read this week, I'm simply going to give you a very straightforward paragraph laying out my thoughts and feelings on the books. You will be missing out on plot, extensive information about the characters (including names), and some other information I tend to inject into my reviews, but these reviews are, one might say, from the soul. I am being brutally honest in them, though I sincerely hope that no authors or readers are offended by my comments.

Well, without further ado, here are six super short reviews:

by Brent Runyon (Amazon. B&N.)
--- I really liked this book. It was pretty excellent, actually. I thought the main character's fascination/obsession with sex was a little annoying/creepy at times, but it generally worked and I'm willing the look past that because the book made me think after reading, which is pretty awesome. I'd definitely recommend it. I would also recommend Runyon's The Burn Journals.

Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford (Amazon. B&N.)
--- This was a great, well-written book. I liked the main character, his parents, his doctors, his friends at the hospital, and his sister. I didn't feel like his best friend was fleshed out as much as she could have been, but that might have been done on purpose. I also didn't feel like one of the big revelations was...shocking enough for the main character, considering the plot, but that also might have been making some sort of statement. It's hard to say. Generally good, though, and I'd recommend it.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd (Amazon. B&N.)
--- This debut was very well written and the characters were all well developed. As I read I could feel the main character growing and changing with the story and the events that occurred. My main issue with the book was the ending, which seemed rushed and wasn't particularly satisfactory. I almost have to wonder if the author didn't write this ending at first, but then changed it for agent and/or editor acceptance. Something just seemed a little off there. Otherwise however, it was good and I will definitely look for the sophomore novel by this author.

Black is for Beginnings by Laurie Faria Stolarz (Amazon. B&N.)
--- I'm going to be completely honest here and say that I wasn't wowwed by this addition to the Blue is for Nightmares series and that, in some ways, I'd like to pretend it never happened. While there was nothing wrong with the story, there little story. Much of the book was rehashing what had already occurred in the first 4 books in the series, and then tying up a few loose ends. I also did not feel that the format (graphic novel) worked particularly well, and it was difficult to combine what I already imagined about the characters with the artist's renditions. Ultimately, I don't think I would highly recommend this book, which saddens me because Laurie Stolarz is one of my top 5 favorite authors. I would highly recommend many of her other books, however (especially Blue is for Nightmares and Bleed). Just not this one.

Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman (Amazon. B&N.)
--- There aren't many young adult paranormal romances with gay main characters (Actually, I can't think of any others. If you can, please comment!), but here is one! It was pretty good, though a bit rushed in some areas, and well-written (though there seemed to be some issues with copyediting and/or typesetting, which have nothing to do with the author, really, so I don't blame Berman). I would have liked for the MC to have more...shock over his apparent ability to contact ghosts, but otherwise I think everything was well fleshed out. I would recommend this.

The Treasure Map of Boys by E. Lockhart (Amazon. B&N.)
--- I really enjoyed this. Very good. The third in a series, but it explains just enough that I didn't have to re-read the other two to remember what had happened before. There are emotional ups and downs, E. Lockhart does some excellent writing, and the characters are just as fleshed out as always (taking into account the main character's point of view and everything). I would definitely recommend this, and I look forward to another Ruby Oliver book.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Break (is) Out!

Break by our very own Hannah Moskowitz should be widely available in B&Ns near you! Borders is lagging behind, so go ahead and bother them about it.

You can also buy it on Amazon.

Edit!: For those of you who are interested, the lovely Grace is having a giveaway on her blog, Gracetopia. Win a copy of Break by Hannah Moskowitz, Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin, and Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon.

Sentences in Bold and Other Quirkz

One of the many quirks I have as a writer manifests itself during edits. Especially when I'm concerned with continuity, I often don't spend too much time angsting over the right words to put in certain places - that comes later. So when I'm faced with a situation that I'm not certain how to handle, I tend to take the easy way out:

Her eyes filled with something that doesn't sound incredibly trite, move on move on let's deal with that later okay cut to DRAMATIC CHASE SCENE OMG

Granted, that's a (rather horrible) example I pulled out of my rear just now. But you get the picture, right?

What are some of your writing quirks? Let's see who wins the Weirdest Writer Waward.

I'm also going to share with you another quirk I've discovered. I originally blogged about this on my personal (and dead dyingly dead) blog, which you can read (if you're really bored) by clicking on the link in the sidebar.

Sometimes, I make lists. I make lists of things that amuse me, lists of things I need to do, lists of things that bother me, lists of things that are ridiculous about my day to day existence, lists of colors of things on my desk, lists of books I want to read, lists of books I haven't read yet, lists of skin care products that people tell me will prevent my eczema from coming back ever ever in a billion years, lists of citrus fruits.

Very rarely does this tendency carry over into writing. However, since I'm sort of stalling on the whole wordcount thing (lol wordcount what is this mysterious creature oh you mean it's supposed to get larger aka grow in magnitude what are you talking about silly internet people), I decided to come up with a different form of motivation.

We're going to call it the "vocabscribble" method. This is what you need (in handy dandy list format!):

- paper
- a pen
- a book, which may be either fiction or nonfiction but must be entertaining or you will want to stab yourself with the aforementioned pen
- your WIP

Now, carefully open the book with your hands. It may be a long time since you've last read a book (*raises hand guiltily*) and so all the books in your house may have a) gotten incredibly dusty or b) began to plot your demise.

After ascertaining whether the book is going to be cooperative, begin to read. Embrace those words with your eyeballs! EMBRACE THEM. Whenever you come across a particularly titillating word, pick up the pen and record it on the piece of paper. Repeat until you have a good list, about 10 to 20 words.

At this point, you may want to have a tea break.

Once you've finished sipping, open your WIP and start writing. Keep a couple of brain cells thinking about the words you've written down. Can you use any in an upcoming sentence? Do any fall into your deathless prose naturally? If so, check off the word and continue writing. When you've checked off all the words, give yourself a reward. A new book, perhaps. Or a cookie.

Note: I don't worry about going in order. My rough drafts don't go in order, and neither do my vocab lists.