Category Archives: young adult novels

Author Appreciation Day

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Thursday was Author Appreciation Day in the Twitter-sphere. In his Writer’s Digest newsletter, editor Brian A. Klems said:

As writers, we all know how difficult this industry can be to breakthrough and find success. Some days it can be exhilarating while other days it can be so frustrating. Today’s the day we want you to show your support of other writers by finding a book you enjoyed (especially by an author trying to find success) and leave that writer a nice review on Amazon or B&N or Goodreads. When you have a book published, you’ll realize how valuable and uplifting those reviews can be (especially when you’re having a tough day).

Thursday was the perfect day for this because I had just finished reading Amy Lukavics’ Daughters Unto Devils in the wee hours of the morning. So, taking Mr. Klems’ advice, I logged on to Goodreads and left my first ever review:

daughters unto devils“Daughters Unto Devils left me breathless. I mostly binge-read it, and found myself clutching my chair at certain points along the ride. I’m also a YA writer and often deal with paranormal themes in my writing, so I know the difficulty involved in achieving this level of reader interaction/emotional response. Amy Lukavics successfully balances the paranormal elements with the human factors (i.e. characters’ relationships, desires, fears, etc.) in this book. Aside from the sheer terror I experienced numerous times, there were tender moments between Amanda and Hannah, which showed a change of heart for the protagonist–a very difficult thing to capture this well in writing. Though I understand some readers’ frustrations from the parents’ choices, even this was a realistic depiction of the stubbornness common with pioneer mentality. Overall, it read like a realized folk-ghost-tale, as the author intended. A+”

5 STARS to Amy Lukavics, with her debut YA novel, Daughters Unto Devils.

Have you written a review? If so, please leave a link below. If not, consider writing one for a book you loved, especially for a new author. Who knows–when the time comes, maybe he or she will write a review for you!

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Balance

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Here, in the crazy beginning week of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to get swept away with reaching that all-important word count. I posted yesterday about the benefits of coloring to highlight the importance of balance. I’ve read some participants’ accounts of frustration, disappointment, and pushing away children and spouses in order to write that novel by the end of the month. The thing is, NaNoWriMo simply isn’t a good idea for some people. Some of us don’t work well under that sort of pressure. Furthermore, some aren’t wired in the manner necessary to produce the sheer quantity required to complete that kind of a task. I’m known for my (mostly) clean first drafts. The way most of my writing is published is very close to the way it comes out. I’m not saying I’m a superior writer, though. I’m saying that most of the editing and revision process happens inside my head, before I even begin to write. For me, the emphasis–each time I write–is quality.

Michael Grab is a stone balancing artist. He does some truly amazing sculptures. His method of rock balancing is a good metaphor for my writing process. Before he places a rock, he studies it carefully. He says, “The fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of ‘tripod’ for the rock to stand on… By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, you will start to feel even the smallest clicks as the notches of the rocks in contact are moving over one another. In the finer point balances, these clicks can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters.”

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He moves on to a discussion of the mind in balance. “Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain. In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation, or finding a zero point or silence within yourself. Some balances can apply significant pressure on your mind and your patience. The challenge is overcoming any doubt that may arise.” (Lisa Be, Life Buzz.com) So, it’s important to take care of yourself: mind, body, and soul.

In terms of NaNoWriMo, find what works for you. As some wise person once said, “It’s only a failure if you didn’t learn something from the experience.” NaNoWriMo isn’t going to work for me. I decided to take the first week to totally revise my YA novel, Children in the House of Vengeance, taking some valuable feedback I’ve gained from a few rejections and putting them into action. You see, to date 3 agents have requested the full manuscript, and 3 agents have rejected the full manuscript. This tells me I need to re-evaluate it. I’m still writing something each day, but it might be a new portion of that book or a blog post, a few pages of my new long project, a poem, a guest article for someone else’s blog, or my Awkward in the Midwest column over at Easy Street Magazine. As long as I’m working, I’m happy.

So, if you’re like me and you’ve already decided NaNoWriMo isn’t for you, give me a shout! It’s a lonely world out there in the digi-sphere right now. Everyone is busy crunching through those word counts. Or, if you are continuing on the path to write your entire novel this month, tell me about it. Let me know that you’re still alive!OogwayPoTalk

The important thing is to find BALANCE in your life–including the part of you that is a writer. Take care of your health. Take care of your heart. Take time to laugh. And cry. And talk to other people. Most important of all: Be present in your life. Because, as Master Oogway says to Po in Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.”

What Are You Reading?

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Though the words may differ, the advice is always the same: If you are a writer, you must also read–widely and often. Among my stacks of lit magazines, poetry collections, young adult novels, encyclopedias of paranormal/supernatural phenomenon, and geography/history resources are quite a few books on writing. I pulled these 4 to show you:

4 writing booksWriting from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice by Nancy Slonim Aronie (top left)

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (top right)

Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing by Margaret Atwood (bottom left)

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg (bottom right)

There are others–such as Stephen King’s On Writing and most of Janet Burroway’s guides on narrative craft–that I return to often. But these are the books I’ve heavily marked with scribbled notes in the margins and little fluorescent tabs sticking out the sides.

In Ms. Aronie’s Writing from the Heart, I like the practical exercises she prescribes.

Write about a lie you told. Do not soften the circumstances. Be tough but gentle. Be tough in writing the truth, but be gentle on yourself. You were just being human. Do you think you’re the only person who lied to get what you wanted?

Write about a lie that was told to you. (p. 72)

From Bird by Bird, Ms. Lamott tells us

One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore. Another is that writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around. (p. xii)

There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get in that way. (p. 13)

In Negotiating with the Dead, Ms. Atwood lets us know that “it is artists who possess the secret identities, the secret powers, and — if posterity goes their way — the last laugh… As for artists who are also writers, they are doubles twice Writing Down the Bonestimes over, for the mere act of writing splits the self into two.” (p. 32)

As you can see from the picture to the right, my copy of Writing Down the Bones is dense with tabs. I read Ms. Goldberg’s book while riding the bus to David Zimmerman’s novel writing class one summer in grad school at Iowa State University. In addition to the assigned and workshop readings, I chose to dive into this book that was recommended to me by a professor while I was still an undergrad at Simpson College. I believe it was one of those situations where it meant more when I finally got around to reading it, more than if I had read it back then. As if the right time would present itself, like a chance encounter with a person who’d been placed in your life precisely when you needed them the most. Such is a good book.

In Writing Down the Bones, Ms. Goldberg discusses the way we have to distance ourselves from the place (be it a physical or an emotional state) we need to write about. She gives the following metaphor:

Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this “composting.” Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grinds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat, and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil. (p. 14)

While writing, I return to these works often, and I may mention them again here.

How about you? What are you reading? What gives you inspiration? Whose advice do you find yourself returning to, time and again?