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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Bored (and Other Writerly Moods)

Today I was completely and utterly bored. I was at work, and, yeah, I had a lot to do, but I was at my computer all day, and all I could think about was how bored I was. Now all day long, I have my Gmail up, which is the account I use for agent e-mails, and another site, that occasionally I comment on when I need a short break from work. Today, I was completely obsessed with refreshing that site. I just wanted something to happen, and the working wasn't satisfying this craving. (For the record, I did get everything I planned to do at work today done. It really only takes a second to flip to the site, hit F5, and flip back to what I'm working on when it disappoints.)

In my head, all I hear is "I'm bored," "God, something happen," "Why am I soooo bored?"

Then it hit me, just as I was actually about to post "I'm bored" on that website just so something would happen. I wasn't really bored, and I didn't really care what was going on on that site (I mean, I did, but not to that extent). What I secretly wanted to refresh was my Gmail account. But Gmail refreshes itself so frequently that it wouldn't be worth it to refresh that, so my subconscious sent me to the other site to refresh that. Yet it wasn't what I wanted, so even when someone else posted, I was still unsatisfied.

And I wasn't bored. I was frustrated. I want my book to go somewhere. I want to query some more (I'm stuck due to lack of envelopes, stamps, and e-queriable agents), and the WIP's not ready, and I just want the novel I'm querying now to move on to the next stage. I wanted to hear something from someone--to have another little "(1)" at the top of that tab--and I wasn't, and in my mind that static status translated into boredom.


Anyway, it shouldn't have come as such a surprise to me. How often does a full request send my spirits through the roof? Or an important rejection (say on a partial) cause me to snap at my cat for being extra annoying. But this one just seemed strange to me.

So, ever found your emotions completely manipulated by what's going on in the writing world?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The 40 Most Exciting Parts


1. Getting the EARTH-SHATTERING idea that will SHATTER THE EARTH.
2. Nailing the first scene.
3. Figuring out the climax (an important step in any girl's life).
4. Writing an awesome snippet of dialogue.
5. Finishing the first draft.


6. Remember that first scene you nailed? Deleting it. Realizing you didn't need it in the first place.
7. Discovering how to rescue the terrible murky middle from the pits of the earth.
8. Making up a better ending.
9. Saying the same thing in less words.
10. Realizing your book is absolute crap and that you will need to write a new one. Trunking the first one. Starting over from stage 1. Repeating all of stage 2. Again. And again.
11. Ohmigod if I look at this manuscript one more time I just might scream.


12. Finding an agent on agentquery who practically begs for your book.
13. Getting a form rejection from her. Your thirst for success deepens.
14. Querying a bunch of agents who sound eh sort of okay maybe they'll like it?
15. Getting your first personalized rejection.
16. Getting your first request.
17. Peeing yourself while you wait.
18. Sending out revenge queries when you are rejected (this is not when you query the same agent again. This is when you query a different agent to show the industry that you will not be tread upon. Most everyone I've ever queried was revenge queried. Shhh don't tell them.)
19. Getting that "Hey I like your book..." email
20. The offer.
21. The phone call.
22. The stars and twinkly lights.


23. Seeing the submission list.
24. Going out on submission.
25. Getting rejections back where editors call you by your last name and talk about you like you're not there. "Though Moskowitz adeptly explores the unicorns in the novel, she neglects to expand on the main premise of the novel. Indeed, I wondered why I was reading a novel about unicorns when I expected one about a boy who wanted to break all his bones." Note: This rejection is not real. BREAK is probably not about unicorns. Probably.)
26. "Hey, so I think an editor might be interested."
27. That editor is interested.
28. Let's talk numbers.


29. Talking to your editor on the phone.
30. Getting a MASSIVE BOX OF BOOKS from her. (Was this just me? Well it rocked.)
31. Seeing the cover.
32. Seeing the cover.
33. Seeing the cover.
34. Chopping out random lines of witty dialogue someone doesn't like. Realizing how unnecessary they were.
35. Wondering how the hell this paragraph got into your manuscript.
36. Changing 7-11 to 7-Eleven because your copyeditor tells you to.
37. Seeing what customers who pre-ordered your book on Amazon also ordered.
38. The first review.
39. Realizing your book comes out in 16 days.
40. Seeing that bitch on a bookshelf. I assume.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Double-Take

I'm currently in Montréal for Worldcon, and I happened to sit in on a panel about taboos in writing, just because, you know, it was there and we've discussed edgy fic a lot on this blog. Anyway, as I'm sitting there, a woman in the audience asked about the prevalence of YA lit in the SFF market, and the panelists could not name any GLBTQ YA fiction.


Clearly this situation has to be remedied.

Now this is what you should do, YAYAers: Go out into the world and tell everyone how progressive and nifty YA fiction is. Tell them how we hit those taboos and we hit them hard. Tell them how moving, exciting, literary and deathless the prose of your favorite YA writer is. Tell everyone you can, because YA isn't getting the recognition it deserves!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

You Know What I Mean

If you are reading this blog, chances are you've been there. It's the darkest time in that hellacious novel-writing process, the one that makes death by fire seem like a balmy day on the Florida Keys in comparison. It stinks. It sucks. It resembles death of an emotional sort except that death would mean that the suffering would end.

I'm talking about round one of revisions.

Let's break it down in nifty list format:

1. Sophie is contented with her life and her future prospects.
2. Sophie decides it's time to write another book.
3. Sophie takes out her super artistical tools of the trade (Microsoft Word)
4. Sophie composes a brilliant novel filled with breathtaking characters and deathless prose.
5. Sophie retires, leaving the novel to its own devices for a week or so, in order to rest her genius mind.

Now things get ugly:

6. Novel gets evil glint in its eye.
7. Novel conspires with its sociopathic friends Computer and Word to delete the genius and add the dreck.
8. Novel cackles manically.
9. Sophie opens Word after one week, prepared to make two or three edits to her amazing novel.
10. Sophie reads first sentence.
11. Sophie sobs.
12. Sophie runs to the fridge and opens up a new gallon of Rocky Road.

I'm currently in the middle of a massive rewrite and overhaul of this novel. I explained my pain best to my fellow YAYAs: "Editing ST is like sleeping with that really hot guy who's also a total dickwad. It feels so good when it's happening and you think you're in love but when it's over all you have left is shame."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Contest on Hannah's Blog

Hannah Moskowitz, YAYA contributor and author extraordinaire, is holding a contest on her blog.

In a few hours, it will officially be 1 month until BREAK.

I can't believe this is happening.

In honor of this momentous occasion, I want to hear any funny injury stories you have. Bonus if it involves a broken bone, but it's fine if not--I've never broken any bones myself, so I'm sympathetic if you don't have a story to share...

Give me your stories, I'll choose my favorite and the winner gets to name a character in the next chapter of ATWF. Male or female, doesn't matter. I need some names!

Click here to enter! And don't forget to look for Break, from Simon Pulse, available on August 25th.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Do the Genre Hop! (Hop Hop Hop!)

Or, you know, don’t.

Fans of authors expect a certain voice or genre from an author after buying their first book. After all, say Meg Cabot (wonderful lady and author that she is) wrote a horror-erotica, violent Victorian-era YA novel. Her fans would be shocked, because that’s not something they expect from the author.

So it comes down to this: How much does the author owe the reader, and the market? If a voice is chatty and cutesy in the first novel, set in a high school, can the author “genre-hop” with their second novel (say a murder mystery set in medieval times?) Well, no. Not quite.

Often publishing contracts will include a clause stating that the publisher has the first look at the author’s next work. Maybe it’s only the author’s next work in said genre. There are even situations where, unfortunately, the author must have their next work be in the same genre regardless of their future plans for writing.

I’m going to make up a pseudonym here. Say Wright Author only planned on writing one young adult fantasy book their whole lives, and the manuscript got them a literary agent. Awesome, right? However, if their voice and genre aren’t consistent, their marketability down the road plummets. Authors are creating a name or “brand,” and readers expect something from that brand. Authors may well be forced to churn out another young adult fantasy book to fulfill the clause. Wright Author is stuck without a home for their loveably witty adult mystery.

I’m not saying this is how the world works—no, of course not, there are always exceptions and there are always restrictions. However, as a reader, would it bug you if your favorite author wrote something in a genre you don’t normally read? Would you “follow” the author over into another genre, or would you pass in favor of a new favorite author in the same genre you love?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Sentences Revealed

It's been a bit more than a week, but here's the list of books to match the first sentences I posted!

1. The day begins in the middle of the night.
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

2. Marly was dead, to begin with.
Marly's Ghost by David Levithan

3. It wasn't supposed to be this hot and humid on Cape Cod.
The Secret Circle: The Initiation by L.J. Smith

4. "Sex and religion don't mix," my grandma once told me.
The God Box by Alex Sanchez

5. Even the woods are burning.
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

6. After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat.
The Spellbook of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

If you liked any of these first sentences, maybe you should go and check out the book, too!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Interview: Eileen Cook

Eileen Cook's WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? is her first YA novel, but we hope to see more of her writing in this genre. WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? chronicles (isn't that a fun verb?) the coming of age of the titular Emma as she grows up in her small, religious town. Eileen was willing to do an interview with YAYA and, as you can see, she had a lot of fun answering our questions.

YAYA: How did you start writing?
Eileen Cook: Both of my parents are big readers. Weekly trips to the library were a part of our family routine and we’d come home with stacks of books. I’ve loved books and reading as long as I can remember. As soon as I understood that there people who got to make those stories up I knew that I wanted to do that. My parents saved an English homework assignment I did in second grade where the teacher wrote at the bottom “Someday I’m sure you will be an author!” When my first book came out my dad hunted down this teacher. She was over 90 years old and lived in a nursing home. We went out to visit her and my parents were hoping for a big meaningful moment- but she spent the whole time talking about her bunions.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
1) Read- read a lot. You can learn so much about writing this way. Read books you like and books you hate. Break them down to see what works and what doesn’t. Underline or highlight passages/dialog you really like (assuming that this isn’t a library book). It isn’t about trying to write like someone else, it is about discovering the process of what makes a story work.

2) Keep Writing: A lot of people talk about writing, but don’t do it. With every thing you write you get a bit better, you learn a bit more. If you give up then you won’t be published. If you keep trying- then who knows?

3) Seize the day: You won’t have anything to write about if you never leave the house. Try new things, meet new people, travel, you never know what will lead you to the next story.

What’s your writing schedule like?
People have a schedule? I really should get one of those.
I love the idea of having a set routine or process, but I find my life keeps getting in the way. Sometimes I write at home and other times I like to be in a coffee shop or at the library. I write in the morning, afternoon, or evening- depending on when I have the time. I still work another job part time so writing has to fit in with everything else. The only consistent would be that when I am in the middle of the story I find I need to write at least a small bit every day or I lose track of the story.

You tackle some pretty big issues in your novel -- especially religion. Did you experience any feelings of trepidation?
Here is a wishy washy answer for you, yes and no. I know that some of the topics I covered are very important to people and I didn't want to offend anyone. However, when I'm reading the books I like are those that have something to say on big issues. I don't mind if people disagree with me, but I think it is important that we have the discussion. If we don't how will we ever see different points of view?
Some of my favorite books are banned so if WWED is ever on the list at least I'll be in great company!

Have you spent a lot of time in a small town?
I grew up in a small town in Michigan called Traverse City. It isn't that small anymore! It's grown a lot.

Do you have thoughts on the growth and evolution of YA as a genre?
I am HUGELY impressed at what is now available in YA. While there were some great books when I was a teen, there were also a lot of books that clearly had "a lesson." You would be reading along and suddenly it would be all "...and that is why young reader it is important to always think of the golden rule." It used to drive me nuts. I started reading more adult fiction because I wanted books that didn't always have a nice tidy outcome. YA books now reflect that teens are aware and facing a range of situations. There don't appear to be any topics that are taboo. It lets the reader decide what they want to pick up.

I want to ask our readers: What questions do you have for future interviews? Any authors you'd like to see? Email us! Our address is on the right-hand side of the page.

Monday, July 6, 2009


Agents, editors, and the like frequently write/speak/blog about the importance of 'firsts' in novels: the first chapter, the first five pages, the first page, the first paragraph, the first sentence.

But how important are these things to actual readers?

Of course the first chapter would be important, since a boring first chapter would get you nowhere. And the first five pages should probably include something more than aimless dialogue or incessant exposition and back-story. But what about the first page? Or the first paragraph? Or, especially, the first sentence?

Usually, in my experience, by the time a reader opens a book to read the first page or two, they know at least a bit about the novel either from a friend, a magazine/newspaper article, a poster, the back of the book, or whatever. While the reader might put the book down if it just isn't for them, I question whether a first sentence, paragraph, or page will sway someone one way or another given what they already know about the book.

So I wanted to ask YAYA readers and contributors: Do you ever put a book down after reading the first sentence? The first paragraph? The first page?

I definitely understand putting a book down when the actual writing style doesn't mesh with your personal likes, but that would be true regardless of what the author put in that first page. Does the actual content ever sway your decision?

I took a look at the limited number of young adult books I have on my desk next to me and decided to write down some first sentences. Would you keep reading?

1. The day begins in the middle of the night.

2. Marly was dead, to begin with.

3. It wasn't supposed to be this hot and humid on Cape Cod.

4. "Sex and religion don't mix," my grandma once told me.

5. Even the woods are burning.

6. After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat.

Which of these sentences make you want to keep reading? Any of them? All of them? None of them?

Can you identify any of the books these came from? (Answers will come next week. I'll be surprised if anyone gets these(without using Google!), as the books are an eclectic mix spanning the last several years.)

One last question: Do you have any favorite first lines?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Young Adult Genre Revival

This will be a relatively short YAYA posting, but I wanted to get everyone, readers and bloggers alike, involved, so make sure to offer your opinions!

Lately, literary agents have been looking for steampunk and dystopian novels, implying that these may become 'the next big thing' so to speak (no guarantees!).

So here's the question: Is there something you'd like to see in young adult novels, something that was prominent in the lengthy history of world literature, that isn't there now? Some genre, or topic, that you just love, but isn't present in today's young adult lit just yet?

For example, maybe you have a secret love of biji (
筆記), a genre from Classical Chinese literature that was like a notebook, with short stories, anecdotes, quotations, etc. from the author (Biji). There are a few books like this in young adult right now, like CATHY'S BOOK by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman (Amazon), but maybe you'd like to see more. (Note: Cathy's Book is also an interactive mystery, so slightly different, but very similar in principal.)

Or maybe you reread Homer's THE ODYSSEY (
Amazon) every single year and would like to see more young adult that has a large body of water as its main setting. I'm not sure of any current young adult like this, so leave a comment with an example if you know one.

Perhaps you're just looking for a new type of fiction all together such as the slice of life, or
tranche de vie, where there is minimal plot, little character development, and an open ending. Something more true to life than any other kind of fiction. The YAYA bloggers discussed a desire to see more of this just the other day. This, of course, would be a more difficult endeavor because keeping someone interested with the daily happenings of life is difficult, but it has been done. Non-YA examples include James Joyce's DUBLINERS (Amazon) and John Steinbeck's OF MICE AND MEN (Amazon).

So let me ask again, in case you become distracted with filling your Amazon shopping cart...

What genre, topic, or literature form would you like to see more of in modern young adult literature?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Interview: Laurie Halse Anderson

Summer reading means a lot of things to us at YAYA, mostly because it's one of the few seasons when we can read for extended periods of time. One book we always, always recommend to aspiring YA writers is Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. Laurie graciously agreed to do an interview as part of our Summer Author Spotlight.

In addition to Speak, Laurie has written five other YA novels: Twisted, Prom, Chains, Catalyst, and her newest novel, Wintergirls. She's won more awards than I care to count (mostly because it'll make me feel inferior - I'm fragile like that) and is an all-around very cool lady.

YAYA: How did you start writing?
Laurie Halse Anderson: I started writing for fun in second grade. I was a journalist in my twenties. I didn't try to be a published author until my early thirties.

From where have you drawn inspiration?
My Readers.

Speak seems to be a novel that we're always recommending to aspiring YA authors. Can you talk about the difference between writing a first book and a second, in terms of the expectations of a growing audience?
I found the expectations daunting. It took me awhile to figure out how to write without worrying about what other people would think.

Do you have any favorite scenes in your novels?

What was your day job before becoming a literary rockstar?
I don't know, I'm not there yet. (Modesty!) Before SPEAK was published, I was a mom and freelance journalist. (I'm still a mom!)

Have you written novels for other age groups?
Yes, historical novels aimed at middle grades; a series of animal adventure books for older elementary kids and picture books for little kids.

If so, what makes YA different?
Level of emotional intensity and more mature themes.

Do you have thoughts on the growth and evolution of YA as a genre?
I think it is wonderful because teenagers need good books to read. (Yes!!)

Do you believe that Speak and Wintergirls have the potential to become "crossover" novels?
Based on my mail, they already are. I am honored by that fact.

Do you have a favorite author?
Neil Gaiman

Do you have a favorite cliché?
I avoid cliches like the plague!

What's your writing schedule like?
Write from 7AM-3PM, go for a run, do writing business the rest of day. On a deadline, write for 18 hours a day.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Why YA? Revisited

So recently on a writing board I frequent, a writer was expressing his confusion over why an adult would want to write YA. He had only recently heard of the genre (not the first writer I've heard say that lately). He mentioned that he had heard the YA market was hot (it is) and wondered if writers were choosing to "limit" themselves by writing in the genre simply because of the market.

Now, of course, those of us on this blog enjoy writing YA (and sometimes other genres). So while we can't understand why someone wouldn't want to ;) if it doesn't appeal to them, we're not going to tell them they have to read or write it. Historical fiction and erotica don't appeal to me, so I don't read or write them either.

Yes, the YA market is hot. This does not mean that writers who would rather not write YA should suddenly focus on YA. First of all, if one hasn't read the genre (as with any genre), that writer won't know what's been done, what hasn't, or what YA readers want. Second of all, writing solely for the market suggests that that writer has no passion for the genre, and will get left behind by the passionate YA writers. Third of all, there are many more YA writers now than there used to be--somewhat cause and effect of the whole genre getting hot--so even though they may be publishing more books, there's a lot of competition. Finally, and maybe most importantly, by the time a writer entering the genre writes a novel, edits, gets it beta'd, gets an agent, and edits it again, who knows what the status of the market will be? There are plenty of excellent agents who take non-YA, and plenty of publishers who are still publishing non-YA, it's just not as hot right now, and both are looking for "sure things" at this time. (As agent Nathan Bransford said a week or two ago: "Publishers right now want the surest of sure things that are so sure it beats surety over its sure head. And agents have to adjust what they take on accordingly."

What that means for tomorrow's market? Who knows? The recession might be over. A new Harry Potter-type success might drive buyers towards a different genre. People might suddenly realize that it's a lot cheaper to buy a book and read it over the course of [insert reading speed here] rather than go see several movies in the same span of time, which would increase book sales, and hopefully make publishers less stingy about what they consider a sure thing.

So for the lucky people who love the genre, YA is the place to be right now. Why are we lucky? Because we already have novels. We're already in the process of writing/editing/betaing/submitting the novels we wrote because we love the genre. For various reasons.

Recently I answered a thread in a writing forum that asked what drew us to the genre. I went on a long rambling post there about how as my tastes changed over the years (from childhood to my late twenties (now)), I was still interested in the stories about teens and how it led directly into my writing about that age group. It's easier for me to point to tv shows for this because during college, I didn't read for fun as much. When I was a kid, I know I watched shows like the kid sitcom Saved By the Bell and was fascinated by the high school life I thought I was going to be entering. By high school, I was watching dramas instead, Buffy the Vampire Slayer comes instantly to mind (Buffy was just a year younger than me). I followed Buffy (and pretty much only Buffy) into college, where I was introduced to anime and roleplaying games. Many many anime focus on teenage protagonists, so I was still focusing my entertainment on teens. I played an anime-based RPG my last two years of college, playing a sixteen-year-old. This led me to writing fanfic for that particular game, and when I moved out of it, it was perfectly natural to continue writing about teens.

Other reasons "why YA" include things like the magic of first love, the appeal of coming of age, appreciation of tighter pacing, love of stronger voices, etc. These are things that I've heard other people mention as well.

Now, do you have to "limit" yourself to enter this exciting (well, to me) world? Not any more than any other genre. As you probably picked up on in the early days of this blog, the YAYAs fully support edgy YA (even though some of us don't read much of it ourselves). But can you get away with anything in a YA novel? Yes. And no. Remember publishers want the surest sure surety for their books. This means that they want things that are just different enough from what's selling that it's new and exciting without being so different that it's too much of a risk. Yes, you can have a different voice from the average YA novel. But you have to be willing to take on a few rejections from publishers who don't want to risk that it's not going to appeal to a teen. Yes, you can have rape, incest, more explicit sex, drugs, smoking, drinking, self-injury, etc. Those things are also very hot right now in the edgier YA market. But when the audience/agent/publisher feels they might be gratuitous, it's going to be asked to be taken out. And when you start piling them on one another, you're leaving "sure thing" territory and becoming risky. There is also a market for less edgy YA, which is what I would have been reading as a teen, so I'm glad for that. (And let's be honest, even now some of the edgy things that come out are not things I really want to read.)

The nice thing about YA is that there are so many different things to do within it. You have the same genres as adult fiction, just set with teen protagonists and themes. You can go edgy, you can go tame, you can go fantasy, you can go literary, you can go deep (Yeah, teens have already been taught metaphors and symbolism, you know), you can go fluffy, you can go dark. You can do a lot of stuff in YA.

If you want to :)

But anyway, why do you write or read YA? What is it that draws you to that section of the book store?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Book Review: Handcuffs by Bethany Griffin

Summer's here! That means YAYA is kicking off a summertime book club and study. We're starting with a little plug for our own Bethany Griffin, whose novel, Handcuffs recently came out with Delacorte. This review was originally featured at Gracetopia. Grace is, as well as my Facebook wife, a good friend and fellow writer.


She runs out of the room crying.
Let me start over.
My mom runs out of the room crying.
Um, let me start over.

Bethany Griffin’s debut novel, Handcuffs, follows the story of Parker Prescott, an “ice princess” with problems. Her parents are unemployed and about to lose their house, the local high school blogger is spreading rumors that she’s a whore, her sister’s marriage is falling apart right on top of her, and–oh yeah–her ex-boyfriend came over and there was that incident with the handcuffs.

This ain’t Sweet Valley High, folks.

Griffin’s writing is taut and quick, moving through this high-school hell at breakneck speed as Parker tries to fix her life. I could not put the book down–it totally stole an entire Saturday from me.

While the plot is a good one—fast-paced, twisty—it was really the characters that grabbed hold and wouldn’t let me leave. They are exquisitely drawn, fresh and real. I loved Parker, and I was definitely rooting for her very early on. And I may have occasionally said “no! no! Parker don’t!” aloud to the book. Yes, that may have happened. Parker and her problems are easy to relate to–her everyday problems as well as her extraordinary ones. And the ex, ohhhh the ex. He’s mysterious and dangerous… and nameless. Throughout the book he is referred to only as “him” or “my ex-boyfriend” and so on. A cute gimmick? I don’t think so. It focuses the story on Parker. It’s Parker’s feelings for the boy that are important, not necessarily the boy himself. An interesting literary choice on Griffin’s part, and I think a good one.

So overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and I highly recommend it for the YA reader in your life.

Disclaimer: I do happen to know Bethany, she is awesomesauce, but I didn’t let that influence the writing of the review; please don’t let it influence your reading of it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bisexuality in YA Fiction

Of course, questioning lesbian or bi teenagers can always head over to the gay and lesbian section at their local bookstore if they live in an urban or suburban area, since most of the massive chain stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders now carry these sections...

This option also doesn't help the large number of young teenage girls who don't yet know they're lesbian or bisexual - kids like me, who manage to make it all the way through high school feeling a little different but not yet able to put a finger on what it is. A YA book about well-adjusted lesbian teens might help them name it sooner - and begin to build a foundation for understanding that lesbians/bi women can be happy, too.


Let's talk for a minute about life imitating art. I'm sure everyone can point to a book that affected them so strongly that they remember their exact reaction to it years after. For me, I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and being completely blown away. I cried for hours after I read the last chapter -- mostly because I had fallen in love with Sydney Carton. I had similar reactions to The Phantom Tollbooth and Animal Farm.

I would have liked to have realized that I am bisexual because of a book. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for me. I discovered bisexuality through a GLBT awareness site, which I was exposed to during my brief time running the concession stand for the GSA dance in sophomore year. I mean, Jessica Alba helped. (I LOVE YOU JESSICA.) But for the most part, the only information I received about sexuality tended on the extremes of the spectrum -- homosexual or heterosexual. There was no middle ground.

At fifteen, I'd discovered many of the authors who I feel have influenced my 'coming-of-age.' I read Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Garth Nix, Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pierce, and reread Norton Juster and C.S. Lewis. Besides the less-than-palatable revelations about Carroll's personal life, the majority of these authors had, unconsciously or not, maintained heteronormativity in their novels. When other sexualities were mentioned, they were kept to the fringes.

I found GLBT themes in webcomics and fanfiction. (The trend I noticed was, webcomics were generally f/f and fanfiction was generally m/m.) The first mention of an openly bisexual character I'd ever seen was in the webcomic Khaos Komix. Later, I found that Scrubs, a show from which I draw many life lessons, thank you very much, addressed GLBT themes with the same aplomb they did everything else, and that helped the inner Sophie rally against heteronormativity.

However, I would have preferred to have read it in a book.

The fact is, that although homosexual characters are becoming more and more common in YA fiction, there are still comparatively few bisexual characters. stated, in a more recent article, that "books about gay male teens continue to outnumber those about lesbian and bisexual girls, and books about bisexual girls and queer girls of color number in the single digits." (See here.) I think this phenomenon has direct roots in our society's continued difficulty in outwardly addressing and talking about female sexuality. (A boy who has many sexual partners is a player, a girl who has many sexual partners is a slut. She is a double-triple-quadruple slut if she has sex with male and female partners.) I think we've come to a point where male sexuality can be openly discussed, however, female sexuality is still repressed. (Brief side note here: I can't remember the last time I read about a bisexual male character in a YA novel! Obviously male sexuality is repressed in other ways, but honestly, we're all being repressed all over the place, and I don't particularly want to get into that now.)

So here is my question for all of you: What are some YA novels featuring bisexual characters that you have read? If you want to suggest novels with homosexual characters as well, I'm not going to stop you - but I want to read about bis. :P The suggested books are going to be placed in a sidebar list on this page for future reference.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Smaller Beasts Aren't Easier to Tame

Everyone’s gotta start somewhere.

“You have to start with short stories!” cry the influx of People in Publishing. At least, that’s what I’ve heard and read numerous times. Writers are “supposed” to shimmy in short stories before they even think about writing a novel…right?

Well, yes and no. Novels and short stories are completely different beasts. It’s like learning a primary language (elementary writing), becoming bilingual, (writing short stories), and becoming trilingual--writing novels. You think you know what you’re doing (because it’s all writing, how hard could it be?) but the words churn and the cursor flashes and you’re not quite sure what you stumbled into. Wait—that would be me.

I wrote novels before I wrote short stories. Short stories, in my experience, have tight story arcs, a short time for character development, short time frame, and a whap-boom ending. It’s difficult, and most agents aren’t interested in short story collections. So why bother?

It’s simple--I love contests. I’m a competitive person, and since writing is primarily a solo activity, this is the only way I can fulfill the craving to push myself past my limits. Last fall, I entered The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards of 2009 with a short story. I thought I had no chance at winning—but I did. In March, I received a Gold Key in the NYC Regional category for “Found in Lost.” Clutching my large envelope, I hollered and boogied all night. Shameless plug: The Strand Bookstore will be holding a reading of NYC Regional Gold Key winners’ work (including mine!) on May 5th from 7 to 8:30 p.m.

This award won’t help me impress agents, as it’s for teens and I’m competing with adults in the querying process. It won’t make my friends acknowledge my hobby the way a shiny trophy would. However, it does make me thrilled and glad to be a teen writer.

So would I recommend starting with short stories if you’re thinking of writing novels? No. Write what you want to write regardless, and learn from it. If you want to write short stories, by all means, enjoy yourself and best of luck. Just don’t write shorts expecting to have tea with the editor of the anthology. Write them for the story that needs to be told, and who knows? The story might just need a bigger home in a novel.

What about you? Do you think short stories or novels are easier to write? Have contests helped you network with agents and editors?
For more information on The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, please visit

The Strand Bookstore reading will be at 828 Broadway (at 12th St.), New York, NY. For more information, please visit under Events.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Snafu, with Emphasis on the FU


*steps on a soapbox*

Due to the recent fuckwittery at regarding "adult content" and sales ranks, I can point you, dear reader, towards several resources, in addition to Hannah's post below this one,to learn about what the feckity feck has been happening. A very concise and colorful summary has been posted at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books (Which reminds me: Amazon Rank.), and there are concurrent discussions happening over Twitter (search #amazonfail for the fallout), Live Journal, and the Absolute Write Water Cooler.

While many of these places encourage boycotts, letters to Amazon managers, and signing petitions (again, see Hannah's post below this one), we at YAYA have decided on a different way of approaching this issue. And we are doing it in typical YAYA fashion.

When we come across censorship of any kind - especially the kind that makes us physically ill - we promptly engage in the kind of behavior that the censors would frown upon. (We also tend to run naked through the streets with streamers and ribbons in our hair and around our limbs, throwing confetti at homophobic passers-by.) So! We're starting our very own celebration of GLBTQ YA literature. It's called (well, I've decided I'd like to call it) The Happy Hour, and I fully expect it to take us two months to wind down.

Yes, I'm Blue: Amazon Discriminates Against YA Queer Literature

Something fishy is going on at Search for "homosexuality," for instance, and here are some of the first books that pop up:

A Parent's Guide to Preventing Homosexuality
Can Homosexuality Be Healed?
You Don't Have to Be Gay: Hope and Freedom for Males Struggling With Homosexuality or for Those Who Know of Someone Who Is

Specify that you're looking for the most popular books featuring homosexuality, and you still won't find literary classics such as Brokeback Mountain, or even non-fiction books like the biography of Harvey Milk.

Amazon recently released the following statement:

In consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude "adult" material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature.

Since their "entire customer base" is apparently offended by homosexual content (it's not as if any of these excluded books could be made into, say, Oscar-nominated movies or something), it's necessary to disable the sales rank functions for these books. The ability for a customer to determine their popularity disappears.

Never fear--you can still find Playboy on their sales rankings, along with all the other straight erotica you could ever want.

You can still search for vibrators, though I'm surprised they don't require a contract that you'll only use them for heterosexual fantasizing.

Lest you think this only affects erotica, meta_writer on livejournal is compiling a list of all the books affected. A few of the YAs include the Rainbow Boys trilogy by Alex Sanchez and the Am I Blue? book of essays and short stories by Marion Dane Bauer.

Just after my older sister came out of the closet, she used Am I Blue? as the subject of her ninth grade book report.

The teen years are a confusing time for sexuality. Books like Alex Sanchez's and anthologies like Am I Blue? help show teens questioning their place in a heteronormative society that it's okay to be different, that they're fine how they are, that they don't have to change.

Now they'll find books asking if they can be cured and telling them how their parents could have prevented them.

EDIT: Here is a petition against Amazon's new policy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Agent Win!

I’ve never been on twitter, but things like #queryfail make me want to. I’ve read blogs where agents posted amusing queries, and it’s amusing and inspiring to read them. You know you’re not that dumb at least, right?

Then there was a big deal about #agentfail this week.

Well, in the spirit of some great agent experiences I’ve personally had the last two weeks, I think it’s time to celebrate those awesome agents that are out there. So go Operation #AgentWin!

For example:

The agent (my agent? tee hee) who requested the full novel from me within two hours of my querying him last Tuesday. But it was a snail mail full. I wasn’t expecting to hear back any time soon. After all, I had been waiting 3-6 months on my other full requests. So imagine my surprise Saturday morning when I received a phone call from him requesting representation. When you consider that it had to go through the mail before he could even open it, that’s a pretty great turn around time. He also responded to my next e-mail to him in nine minutes, which I hear is basically an instant in the publishing world.

Another agent I had contact with this week had my full novel and asked for time to finish reading it when I informed her of my offer. She spent part of her vacation reading it. She decided not to offer me representation without revisions, however, even though she knew I’d be likely going with someone else, she took an hour out of her day yesterday to talk to me on the phone (her e-mail was acting up) about the novel. She had many suggestions for revisions--most of which I felt would indeed make the novel stronger--as well as sharing with me the strengths she found in my writing. In the end, she told me she understood why I would go with the agent who had actually offered representation when she hadn’t done so, but she also told me that if I felt anything she said would make the book stronger, go ahead and use it. I thought this was really gracious of her to spend her time on this author and novel she saw promise in, even though she knew I probably wouldn’t say no to the other agent in the end.

So what about you guys? Share your stories about the agents who have gone above and beyond the call of duty! Celebrate an agent today!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Book of Nonsense by David Slater

I love it when novels start out by gushing about books. I know I'm a nerd that way, but when I started to read The Book of Nonsense by David Slater, I had to stop reading immediately and jot down a note: "Starts off talking about a huge, ancient used book store of awesome. Plz to be discussing in review, kthx."

The rest of the book was just as delightful. Daphna is a lovely, believable and fully realized character who's offset nicely by her fraternal twin, Dexter. While Daphna finds her "place" in books and bibliophilia, Dexter hasn't found where he belongs quite yet. Needless to say, this does cause some clashes of personality. Daphna's father is a book scout (more win!) who returns from a foray into the land of book-buying with a strange tome in tow: the outside of the book is battered, and the inside is filled with page upon page of language piled together in a seemingly nonsensical form.

Hence the title, you see.

Of course, the aforementioned Huge, Ancient Used Book Store of Awesome had to figure into the plot in more than just a throw-away line at the end (this novel is also impeccably plotted, let me tell you). Daphna's father wants to sell the nonsense book to the owner of the ABC (Antiquarian Book Center), Asterius Rash. And what is Asterius Rash going to do with the book for which Slater's novel is named?

He is going to use it to take over the world. Obviously.

Okay. I might be getting a little over excited here.

Objectively, I would have to give The Book of Nonsense four stars out of five, if only because there are some loose ends that are left flapping by the end of the novel, and overall, I was hoping for more development between the children and their father. I would recommend The Book of Nonsense to fellow bibliophiles and folks who like their MG/YA fiction dark but with heart.

David Slater has written several picture books. His website can be found here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Congratulations to Hannah Harrington!

Hannah isn't the Hannah who contributes to this blog, however, she's been friends with all of us at YAYA since the dawn of all things important, and so of course we had to congratulate her recent sale.

Hannah's novel, SAVING JUNE, was acquired by Harlequin's new YA line, Harlequin Teen.

Here's an edited version of the Publishers Marketplace announcement (edited to protect the innocent, I mean).

Hannah Harrington's SAVING JUNE, in which a girl trying to come to terms with her perfect older sister's suicide takes a road trip and finds love with a mysterious boy who may know more about her sister's life and death than he's telling.

Congratulations, Hannah!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

More Housekeeping Notes from the Blogmistress General

Okay. I'm sure some of you have noticed the abundance of dust happening in the corners and the stacks and stacks of dirty dishes. Truth is, I haven't neatened up the blog in a while (college applications = death). Probably the archives aren't very archivey, and the links on the side of the page aren't linking to everyone they should be. Also all of the bloggers' ages on the side of the page... yeah. Those are all one year less than they should be. (I'm sure some of our cohorts wouldn't object if I left 'em like that, however...)

So I'll be straightening things up around here during the next couple of weeks. And gently prodding people to make posts more regularly, although I doubt we'll approach anything like a schedule.

That's about it, folks. I'll see you when the dust subsides.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How Do You Deal With Criticism?

This is really me searching for advice.

Who do you listen to you? Fellow writers, your best friend, your teacher? If someone critiques you, what process do you go through to separate the valuable stuff from the bullshit? How do you keep a critique that seems like a critique of you as a writer in general, not just of a certain work, from bringing you down completely?

Give me your methods, folks.

<3 hannah

Monday, February 23, 2009

Ignoring Common Genre Themes (Is It Shooting Yourself in the Foot?)

I decided to be adventurous and buy a book of short stories by prominent YA contemporary spec fic authors. The stories were all about love, and I read it in the two weeks leading up to Valentine's Day. I noticed that all of the stories except one, while very different, had one common theme. Human main character (all girls, in this case) gets romantically involved with a non-human character. Then I look at the last two YA contemp fantasy novels I read. One was Twilight (I'm sure I don't have to explain). The other, Wicked Lovely, which was slightly different in that there were more than one POV, some human, some not (although the MC was still a human girl, at least at first), and the romance played out differently.

Looking at my own novels, I see a huge reversal. Non-human MC (usually a girl) falls in love with a human love interest (or someone who thinks they're human and has been living as a human ;-) ). Now with the other scenario, you have the option of the classic human-character-discovers-magical-world, which is nice for the author because they get to introduce the reader to the fantasy world without an infodump. The reader discovers it with the MC. But is there anything wrong with taking the POV of the "other"?

Of course, this brings me to two huge concerns. One, that maybe readers do have a problem connecting to the "other." Most of my non-human MCs have been very human-like, and I've never had a complaint about them (or the one who I thought would be hardest to connect to). But maybe it is a problem.

More importantly to the post is this. Is the reason that the novels and stories I'm seeing are like this because that's what the market is expecting now? In the wake of Twilight, is it expected that a paranormal romance or a fantasy with romantic elements has a human MC with a supernatural love interest? And does that mean it's harder to get anything else published?

I sure hope not.

Don't get me wrong, my enjoyment of each of those stories wasn't ruined by the fact that they had this common element, but wouldn't it be boring if every genre or subgenre was required to have the same basic set up?

And it's easy to say, "No, you want to be unique. It will get the agent's and editor's attention!" But when you see four stories in a book of five with that same thread, it makes you stop and wonder.

Anyway, within your own preferred genres (reading and writing), what elements do you see commonly, that maybe you've conformed to or perhaps completely ignored?

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Rant

Now, I'm in a remarkably good mood for a rant, but this particular issue has been bothering me for a while. This probably doesn't fall under the category of young adult fiction, and it's probably not about fiction at all... it's more about young adults writing fiction.

As some of us know, I was recently accepted into the college of my choice. It's very exciting, yay, etc. Everything was peachy until I saw one sentence on the university blog. It said something to the effect of, "In every other way, this candidate was perfect: he had an excellent GPA, strong extracurriculars, and a published novel."

My reaction ran along the lines of: "uh-huh... huh... WHAT?!!?!?!"

Maybe it's just me, but I dislike the idea of people writing novels as some kind of prerequisite for college admissions or any other application process unless it has something to do with writing. So if you're applying for an MFA program at Iowa, then yes, please mention that you've published eight quintillion novels and they're all on the New York Times Bestseller List. In fact, feel free to bribe the admissions officers and buy the west side of campus. But I feel like people who toss around a published novel as if it were a prerequisite instead of an accomplishment are missing the picture.

I'm not quite sure what the picture is. Novel writing is art. I enjoy novel writing. You people are sucking the joy out of my novel writing by using it to weasel your way into an Ivy League school.

Wait. Do you think my prejudices are coloring my words here? (I have an unbridled dislike for Ivy League prestige...)

Young authors get such a bad rap in the writing world as it is. Adult writers point to examples on extreme ends of the spectrum as if teens can be easily classified as one or the other, or they tell us not to pursue publication until we've reached 25. Even writers of young adult fiction. This kind of behavior would be like Terry Pratchett announcing that the majority of people who read fantasy are idiots.

I don't understand. My incomprehension, it is huge and vast and eggplant-colored.

Here is a comic:


This is the end of my non sequitur.

I don't know if this is because the majority of teenage writers out there really do suck (I doubt it) or if it's the fault of society (wtf is society anyway, man?) but I'd like to see everyone move past criticizing other people without invitation and embracing that hey -- we all sucked at some point.

Am I overreacting? I might be overreacting. But you know. The title should have warned you.

Also, college admissions are le suck.

Quick edit: The applicant in question was applying for law school, and had published a children's chapter book.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

High Concept and Realistic it even possible?

Let me start by saying I'm no worshiper of high concept. I'd much rather write a good book than just a hooky book. It's just that when something is this hard to wrap your mind around, well, it's kinda like a rubix cube. It obsesses me.

And as a teacher, I see the appeal. I'm a salesperson of literature every day. I take the class to the library. The true readers (with the exception of a few who think I'm a genius) run off because they know what they want and where it is. The reluctant ones, we play a guessing games. What kinda stuff do you like? What movies do you like? You like sci-fi? funny stuff? realistic stuff? fantasy? sports? And then we start perusing the shelves.

In English-teacher-salesperson mode, high concept works for me. If I were to pull a book off the shelf and say, "this is beautifully written," they would either run away, or put it back as soon as I walk away. But a good concept, well, makes them really look at the book. Snappy cover art is helpful at this point. :)

So, since I am the bottom rung salesperson, just trying to get these picky customers to check out books that have already been purchased, I can see the high concept pitch working on up the ladder of sales and marketing.

Alas, I have never writtten anything high concept. And I don't know if I ever will. By definition (unless I'm wrong and I've twisted this rubix cube a few times too many), in a high concept book everything, even subplots, ties back in to that concept.

I don't think you can really do that in a contemporary realistic book. In a speculative book you can create a situation that everything revolves around. But I think modern life is just too complex and just too messy. In another conversation, Donut suggested Freak Show as a high concept book in which everything tied into the drag queen mc wanting to be prom queen. But honestly, I don't think he came up with that plan until halfway through the book, after his classmates put him in the hospital.

Maybe it works for Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. It does seem that everything does get tied in with the pants. Maybe it works with Audrey, Wait! the whole situation is related to the song about her getting so huge. Maybe my point is moot (like talking to a cow). I don't know. The rubix cube is spinning around again. I'm the kid who took theirs apart with a steak knife and then stuck it back together again.

One more blog, later this week, and I'll do a drawing for a hardcover (cause that's all there is) copy of Handcuffs. Sent from me to you.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

HIGH CONCEPT (it's a contest, with a prize)

Okay, I have a theory about high concept books. The theory might be wrong. It is probably wrong, but it'll be fun to talk about it. Yes, talk. That means you have to respond and then we can have a discussion (new years resolution- be more agressive)...(real new years resolution- be more witty so people will like you). Okay, yeah, I'd like to discuss this with some other smart people- that means you.

Before we beging the convo, I need a list of books you consider High Concept, and if you feel up to it, a short explanation of the concept.

If you aren't familiar with high concept, it was first, I believe, a movie term- when you can sum up the idea of a movie (or book) in a catchy distinctive sentence of phrase.

Jurassic Park- Dinosaurs get cloned from DNA found in amber but are not ideal amusement park exhibits after all.

Sister Hood of the Travelling Pants- 4 girls have their lives changed by a "magical" pair of pants.

Both of these were books before they were movies, of course.

I want to do a couple of posts on high concept books, because it's something I've been thinking about. Just out of interest. So everyone who posts, will be put into a drawing to win a signed copy of Handcuffs. If you already have a copy- you can give this one to a lucky friend, or I can give you something else off my overflowing bookshelf. One of my real resolutions is to be more aggressive-about decluttering my house.

So post away. Post post post.
Happy New Year, I love you all. More posting = more love. Also, maybe my handcuffs book marks will be in soon. I will send those to anyone who wants some.