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Posts reviews of picture books and teen fiction; suggests useful book sites, software, and book-related products; some news about children's books, and more.
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I’m happy to have Mike Mullin here today, talking about writing with courage. I love his post, and I’m honored by what he wrote. I believe Mike Mullin already has lots of writerly courage, and it’s something I like and respect. I think it can help make deeper stories. Take it away, Mike!
Writing with Courage
When Cheryl invited me to be a guest poster on her blog, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about: courage. You see, I’ve been admiring Cheryl’s writing from afar for almost two years—since I first read Scars. And while there may be a few better prose stylists or a few better plotters working in young adult literature, there is no-one writing with more raw power—with more courage—than Cheryl.
Re-reading the paragraph above, I realize that “admire” is the wrong word for how I feel about Cheryl’s writing. Insanely envious is more like it. Seriously, when we finally meet, I’m going to steal a strand of hair from her to use in a voodoo ritual—your juju will be mine, Rainfield!
Courage, particularly in writing, is rare, precious, and essential. I certainly don’t have it in the generous measure Cheryl does. For over a year, I’ve been trying to write a blog post—yes, a mere blog post—about my own childhood brush with sexual abuse, and I’ve found I can’t. My experience was, thankfully, far less traumatic than Cheryl’s, but I still believe there are lessons we could take from what happened to me, if I ever found the courage to share it.
I was a voracious reader, but in fifth grade I had read absolutely nothing about pedophilia. While the subject is fairly well-covered in today’s young adult literature, it was then and is today—to the best of my knowledge—nearly nonexistent in middle-grade novels. Yet children are more likely to be abused as middle graders than as teenagers. I believe if I had read more about it—if our middle-grade literature had been darker—I might have been better prepared for what happened to me.
That’s not to say that I’m completely devoid of writerly courage. Achieving any measure of success as an author requires it. But I tend to mask the parts of my novels that cut closest to the bone in fictionalized flesh.
For example, I’m occasionally asked what my favorite part of ASHFALL is. (ASHFALL, my debut novel, is about a teen struggling to survive and find his family after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging the world into a cataclysmic natural disaster.) I always answer that the scene in chapters 37 and 38 is my favorite. It was never part of any outline; I wrote it spontaneously while I was visiting my Uncle Chuck, who was dying of stage 4 colon cancer. The most difficult part of that visit wasn’t watching my Uncle Chuck die—we’d known he was going to die for some time—it was seeing his wife and children showering love upon him, even while they were trying, and failing, to hide their own grief.
In chapters 37 and 38 my protagonists, Alex and Darla, meet a woman who’s just lost her husband. She’s pulling three young children behind her on a toboggan, and one of them, Katie, is desperately ill. Alex wants to stop and try to help. Darla, who is far more practical than Alex, argues that they should go on—that they can’t help everyone who’s suffering. Alex wins the ensuing argument. They stop and try to help, but Katie dies anyway. I think the power of that scene flows from the fact that I chose to pour what I was feeling into it—despite the pain that writing it caused me. That, perhaps, is also a form of courage.
I believe writerly courage can be developed like any other aspect of writing. One of the reasons ASHFALL broke through and got published, while my earlier manuscripts did not, is that ASHFALL—despite its post-apocalyptic setting—is at its heart a personal story, a coming-of-age story based in my own teenage years. I credit one book in particular for helping me write closer to my own bones, Ralph Keyes’s Courage to Write. His numerous examples—particularly his stories of other writers’ struggles to find courage—inspired me to dig a little deeper and put a little more of myself on the page. If you’re an aspiring author, I highly recommend it. Perhaps I’ll re-read it soon, searching for inspiration to finally begin that blog post.
I knew I had something good in Chapters 37 and 38 of ASHFALL when my wife read them. We were on our way to an education conference in Pittsburg, and she was reading the manuscript out loud while I drove. (That’s a fabulous revision technique, by the way. By listening to your prose, you pick up errors that your eye will skip over while reading.) I heard a catch in her voice and glanced at the passenger seat. Tears were streaming down her face, shining in the mid-morning sun. I thought, yes! I’m a great writer and a terrible husband!
What about you? What inspires you to write courageously? Let me know in the comments, please.
Thank you so much for that thoughtful post, Mike! I think you have a lot of writerly courage–you wrote about grief and pain that you’ve seen and experienced. You dug deep.
People, you can find out more about Mike and his books here:
About Mike Mullin
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Ashen Winter is his second novel. His debut, Ashfall, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association.
About ASHEN WINTER
It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this trilogy. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.
Read an Excerpt
The first two chapters are available on my website: www.ashenwinter.com. You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them.
Find Mike On:
Barnes & Noble
The Book Depository
I’ve been waiting for this day for a while–the official cover reveal of STAINED (which comes out this November from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)! All across the web today, you’ll see many book bloggers, librarians, reviewers, and some readers who have generously taken part in this reveal.
So, here it is–the cover of STAINED!
I really, really love this cover. I think it immediately tells the reader exactly what the book is about, just like SCARS does. You know just from looking at the cover that the girl has been abducted. And if you read the tagline–Sometimes you have to be your own hero
–you also know that Sarah has to be the one to rescue herself, and from that you know that she’s a strong-girl character. You don’t see all of Sarah’s face on the cover because she usually hides her port wine stain beneath her hair (she has body image issues, like many of us do). I love that my editor, Karen Grove, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt asked for what I wanted, and listened! That’s such a good feeling.
So what’s STAINED about?
Here’s the official book description, which I love:
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope, if you read STAINED, you will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.
And here’s the book trailer for STAINED; I hope you’ll watch it!
So, what do you think? Do you like the cover? Does STAINED sound interesting to you?
comes out Nov 19, 2013. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, you can pre-order a copy:
The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)
Books a Million
“My books aren’t good enough.” “My writing is crap.” “I’ll never…”
I’ve thought those kinds of thoughts many times over the years about my writing–before I was published, and even after. I have always struggled with worrying that my writing isn’t good enough, powerful enough, polished enough. Part of that is being a survivor of abuse, having my abusers intentionally go at my self-confidence. But in talking to other writers, I’ve found that part of it is just about being a writer and a creative, sensitive person in our society.
There’s a lot of rejection and criticism involved in the writing business, which I think can increase or at least reinforce insecurity and doubt–and there’s also a lot of vulnerability. As writers, we our baring our soul on the page. We are showing so much of ourselves, and the deeper and more fully we show ourselves–which I believe makes a more powerful book–the more vulnerable and insecure we may feel when others read and react to our work.
Before we first get published, we can receive hundreds upon hundreds of rejections for years before getting that elusive “yes” and a contract. And it can start to wear at our self-confidence; we may worry that our writing isn’t good enough. It’s painful to get rejections, over and over again, and it can feel like publishers or agents are saying that not only is our writing not good enough, but that we, as people, aren’t–because there’s so much of us in our writing.
And that’s really hard. We work so hard at our craft, and yet the quality of a novel is so subjective; it’s based on the opinion and life experiences of the reader or editor, and everything that makes that reader respond or react the way they do. It’s not the same as, say, turning out a finished product in a factory, where most people will agree on whether it’s finished or not, it’s beauty or lack of. Writing technique is important, and polished writing is important, but we all aren’t always going to agree on what is beautiful, moving writing and what is not. So we face repeated rejections as a writer, and that can feed our feelings of insecurity or doubt or not being good enough at our craft. And, it takes time to hone our craft. So we work at it, and we improve. And if we’re lucky, we have someone around us remind us that a rejection letter doesn’t necessarily mean that our work isn’t good enough to be published; sometimes it’s just that we haven’t gotten the right fit yet with the right editor or agent at the right time. But it still feels like a rejection–of our work. Of us.
And writers are often very sensitive people, and many also struggle with depression or self doubt or other things that make the repeated rejection even harder. But if writing is part of the fire that makes us feel alive, we keep writing and submitting.
Even after we get a book published, there’s rejection and criticism through reviews of our book. If we put a lot of our heart and soul into our writing, it can be incredibly painful and feel very personal when someone says they don’t like some aspect of our book or the book at all (though sometimes there’s something we can learn from it and take into our future work). I know some writers who don’t read their reviews at all because of how it can affect them. I know that I usually get many, many glowing reviews for my books, but that just one negative review stays with me, cutting into my mind and heart like barbed wire, making me doubt my writing, my talent, my worth as a writer, and it takes a lot of effort for me to get distance–something I am still trying to learn.
And once we’ve got a book contract, before the book comes out into the world, publishers ask us to see out blurbs–recommendations of that book–from other, more established and well-known authors. Some authors will never respond, some will refuse (which feels like a rejection), and some will be willing to read but not find the book fits for them, while others will like our work and lend their recommendation. But that whole process involves yet more rejection and can feed into our insecurity.
There also seems to be a natural stage that many writers go through in their writing and repeatedly editing a manuscript where we go into doubt and worry that our writing is crap. Maybe when we’ve become too close to the writing, maybe when we’ve gone over it too many times–but many writers seem to go there. For me, that’s a sign that I’m finished editing the manuscript, at least for the moment, and need to put it away for a while or submit it. It’s helped to learn that over many books, and to be able to see it, remind myself of that stage. But I still go to that place: my writing is crap.
And the rejection or possibility for more self-doubt doesn’t stop there. Even after we have a book or books published, it doesn’t mean we automatically get the next one published. We may receive rejections from publishers or editors still. Or we may lose a trusted editor, may have our publisher fold or be absorbed into another publishing house–changes that again can rock our confidence. Or we may not sell as many books as our publisher wants us to, or as we want ourselves to.
It can be hard not to compare ourselves to other writers who we see as doing better than us with their books, or to see the things that other writers do better than us. And yet it’s so important to be able to recognize our own strengths. I know I write with strong emotion and being inside the character well. I write with passion, I write with tension and fear that make great suspense, and I write about the things I care about, the things that move me, the things that I need to speak about. Those are all important to me. I also know that I have to go through my manuscripts every time and look for more ways to ground the characters in their surroundings and settings, add in more body language, more of all the senses, and layer in symbols. But that’s okay; that’s what we do as writers. We go in through our edits and we round out our characters and story worlds to make them the best that we can make them.
Before I was published, I thought that once I had books published the insecurity would fade, that I would feel more confident. And in some ways it has. I know that I’m a Writer, and that I’m making a living through my books; it’s something I’m proud of and feel good about. But even after having five books traditionally published and one self-published, even after several awards and many glowing reviews, I still struggle with insecurity and doubt about my writing. I still worry that what it’s not good enough, and I’m still always trying to make it better. I think that last part is actually useful–the trying to always learn more about the writing craft and make our writing more powerful. But the insecurity and doubt is not useful, and can get in the way.
I’m editing a manuscript of mine right now that I deeply care about, and that in some ways exposes me even more than my other books have (and I always put so much of myself into my work). This has me feeling even more vulnerable and insecure about the writing than usual. I’ve been working from a critique of the manuscript from a fellow writer. I trust this writer, but the first three pages of her feedback are all about the things she doesn’t like and that don’t work for her. It is so much harder to work from the negative first (at least for me), and for me it increases my insecurity and starts those old negative messages running through my head. I found myself jumping at her suggestions, thinking I had to do everything she said in the way she said, even though some of it felt wrong for me and for the story I was trying to tell as I worked. There’s a lot right that she said, but some things just don’t fit for me, and I started feeling a bit stuck. So I had to take a step back and remind myself of the same thing I’ve always told other writers when I critique their work: “My feedback is my opinion, it’s subjective. Take what works for you, and ignore the rest.” Once I did that, the writing/editing flowed for me again, though I’m still battling insecurity and doubt.
What I’ve needed to re-remember is to trust my gut in my writing. I know I need to edit and polish my writing; I want it to be the strongest, the most powerful it can be. I want it to move readers, to touch them, to make them feel for and side with and understand my main character and the problems she’s going through. And I want to make a good enough living at my writing. And I want to always, always make a positive difference in the world through my books, even as they entertain. But I also have to remember that I am already doing that. I still get reader letters every week telling me how much Scars moved them, or helped them. And that’s something I need to hold on to. Not the doubt or insecurity or negative messages from the past.
I don’t write half-heartedly. I throw myself into my writing, I draw on my emotion and trauma to write, I make myself the character as I write. I pull up what I know and what I care about and weave it into the story. I always edit and re-edit until it sounds and feels right to me. So I have to trust myself. Know that I am speaking my voice through my writing, and am being heard and responded to. Know that I am putting my heart and soul into my writing. Know that I am doing what I can to make positive change into the world, while telling as good and as moving a story as I can.
So. I am going to try to trust in myself and my writing, and the many people that have told me my writing moves them–and I hope you will, too. Trust yourself, trust your writing, and believe in yourself as much as you can.
Wow! Just got another video review of Parallel Visions, this one from reader Kat Wells! It’s also really articulate and sweet and thoughtful. I love it! (beaming)
I absolutely love this video book review that reader Jacob Lasher (who also writes) did of Parallel Visions! (beaming) It’s thoughtful, sweet, and at times funny. You can tell he’s really thought about the writing and about what works for him in a book. It made me feel so good to watch.
BTW, Parallel Visions is still $0.99 for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo until some time tomorrow.
Nook readers – Parallel Visions is now on sale for just $0.99 on Nook! It took a while for my request to go through, but now it has. Enjoy!
Parallel Visions–my new YA paranormal fantasy-is on sale for $0.99 on Amazon for Kindle and Kobo for Kobo ebook readers until Jan 19th.
It’s also available on Barnes and Noble for Nook for $2.99, or if you want to get it for Nook at the sale price of $0.99 you can purchase it for Nook at Smashwords.
If you want the print edition, you can purchase a copy on Amazon.
I think this is the first ever Christmas that I’ve ever had that’s felt good/okay. I’ve had a rough month this December–some horrible abuse memories from this time of year, and some depression, deep sadness, despair, old feelings that come from the abuse and trauma–and during that time I also had to work on copyedits of Stained (which comes out next year). But I also had a lot of good. And today…today was actually good. I don’t remember a Christmas that I’ve ever been able to say that. This is new for me, and lovely!
Petal, my little Chinese Crested dog, brings me so much happiness. I started the morning with a lovely walk with her, and we saw and walked with many other people and their dogs who we both knew. That was a nice start to our day. I had fun giving Petal a bunch of presents throughout the day, including a really loud rooster toy (actually, three of them, to replace her favorite chewed up one), a bouncy bird toy, a soft stick toy, and a new bone, Christmas doggie cookie, chewies, and extra treats. Petal gets so much happiness out of little things–it’s a good reminder.
I also posted some photos of Petal and talked about her on Twitter and FaceBook, and had people responding, and that helped me stay connected to people and to good feeling. And I had email conversations with some of the people I care about most in this world, which also helped.
I unwrapped a beautiful, thoughtful present from a beautiful, thoughtful, dear friend of mine–Julie Shoerke–who also happens to be my book publicist.
She sent me this lovely piece of hanging art/poetry that says “You are so smart, caring, awesome” on one side, and “you are so witty, loving, amazing.” I don’t know about the “witty” part, but I do know that I try to be the others, and Julie insists they all fit. I really need reminders like that, still; my abusers taught me to hate myself and to not take in any good. I’ve learned, over time, to love myself more, but I can’t always hold onto tho positive, so this was a beautiful, perfect, thoughtful present.
I put up ornaments on the tree from two people I love dearly, including Jean (who is like a mom to me) which was a lovely reminder of them, and had two other gifts from some people I love, which helps so much. And I put up a flying pig ornament which arrived last night. I love flying pigs; I love the impossible becoming possible (which is a theme for me, and which comes out in my book Parallel Visions).
I bought myself most of my presents–it’s what I do without family, and it can often feel sad to me on Christmas and my birthday. As well as all the old stuff that comes up from my parents buying and then destroying my presents every year when I was a kid. But though presents felt sad this month, it didn’t today. Instead, parts of me enjoyed the things I’d bought them and receieved, and some favorite things came up with me and Petal on the couch.
I made a Tofurkey and potatoes and asparagus/spinach/onions/mushrooms – some of my favorite foods – and had chocolate cookies, and Petal had pure chicken dog treats.
I read and read–I’ve just gotten into Chris D’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles, which if you haven’t read is comforting and fantastical and lovely, and I highly recommend them. (I went through Book One–The Fire Within–yesterday, and today I’m on Book Two, Ice Fire.) I also read my new picture books, all of which are new favorites and feel so good–Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack; Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg; And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano and Erin E Stead; John Jensen Feels Different; and, even though it feels a bit sexist to me, I also bought, opened today, and loved My Snake Blake by Randy Siegel and Serge Bloch (maybe because it feels like Crictor by Tomi Ungerer which I loved as a child).
I also bought and read some Christmas picture books (before the day), trying to open myself up to the idea that Christmas could be a good time of year. I now have some real favorite Christmas picture books, some that are sweet, some that are like poetry, and books I know I’ll come back to again next year: The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson and Jon Muth; A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown; Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (I love Amelia Bedelia); and Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. I also found some winter picture books that I love and pulled them out; while not specifically Christmas, they still fit this time of year.
I watched part of a feel-good Christmas movie (A Holiday For Love); I’ve been watching feel-good Christmas movies all month. Feel-good movies and books help remind me of the goodness in people, and are so important for me when things are hard. I’ve spent time playing with Petal, and enjoying my gifts, having fun reading, and eating…and not working! Talking with good people on Twitter and Facebook and email (thank you, all!) And for the most part, I’ve stayed out of sadness and depression, and just…had a good day. I will hold onto this, and try to remind myself next year when things get hard around Christmas. I even found myself able to listen to Christmas music and be okay, even enjoy some of it, without it taking me down to the abuse. I didn’t think that could happen, especially when I was having a rough time this month. But it has, and today is good…and I am thankful. Thankful for healing and change, for the kind, good, loving people in my life, for people I connect with online, for my lovely, sweet little Petal, and for having enough food to eat, gifts to open, safety and warmth.
I hope you have all had, or are having, a lovely, lovely holiday filled with laughter, joy, and good feeling. I hope for healing, joy, and laughter for us all.
To celebrate the release of Parallel Visions: A Teen Psychic Novel, it’s on sale on Amazon for $0.99 until Dec 31st!
Kate sees psychic visions of the future and the past—but only when she’s having an asthma attack. When she “sees” her sister being beaten, she needs more visions to try to save her, along with a suicidal classmate—but triggering her asthma could kill her. Parallel Visions is the story of one brave, caring girl whose unusual gifts put her own life in danger.
SLJ created a list of picture books to help kids cope with tragedy because of the recent Sandy Hooks tragedy. I think it’s a great starting point–and I’ll bet we all have some books we would add.
I think books can help us deal with painful issues; books helped save me when I was a kid being abused and tortured. Books can help us by directly dealing with issues, or sideways through metaphor or fantasy. Books can make it easier to hear about and deal with painful things–and picture books are great at doing that.
Picture books aren’t just for young children; I think they can also be great tools for older children, and even adults, to deal with trauma or to find hope again. Because trauma and the loss of someone we love can also bring up anger, sadness, fear, grief, and depression, I would add these picture books:
The Heart and the Bottle
By Oliver Jeffers
This is a moving book that deals with grief and loss, and the way it can make you forget how to see beauty around you, or care about things, or be curious–and the way it can make you want to protect yourself and your feelings. And it reminds us how important it is to still feel and care about people, and the people we’ve lost–all using metaphor. It’s beautifully written and illustrated.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This book deals directly with grief and death; Michael Rosen talks about losing his son and his mother, and how it makes him sad much of the time, or angry, and the way he deals with it and tries to make himself feel better. He does things like reminds himself that everyone has sad stuff, and he tries to do one thing he’s proud of every day and then focus on that when he goes to bed, and do one thing that makes him feel happy–and he writes about sad. He also talks about remembering the good times he had with his son and his mother. There’s a lot that people who’ve lost someone will relate to in this book. I wish the ending felt a bit stronger in a happy ending or more wrapped up, but it’s a good book.
Sometimes Bad Things Happen
By Ellen Jackson, photographs by Shelley Rotner
This book talks about some of the things that can make kids feel bad, including bad things they hear on the news, and then reminds them that most people want to make the world a better place. It also goes through some good coping methods for when bad things happen and you feel sad, scared, hurt or angry, including thinking of the good people you know, hugging a friend, looking up at the sky, etc. It has some good suggestions and a positive outlook, and may be a good tool for traumatized children.
The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad
By Rob Goldblatt
A book about a boy who doesn’t want to be sad so he tries to get rid of everything that makes him sad, shutting himself away from everyone and everything that could possibly make him sad–until he realizes that the things that make him sad also make him happy. It encourages readers to embrace even the things that make us sad, and to keep the people and animals we love in our life.
By Patricia Thomas, illustrated by Chris L Demarest
This is a simple, sweet book about feeling sad and doing something to change it. It starts out with a sad boy and a sad father and a red sled, and then has them having fun in the snow, and coming home to hot chocolate, a hug, a sleep and a read. It is lighter than the other books, and not as in depth, but a good reminder that sometimes distraction and having fun can help feeling sad or down.
The Blue Day Book: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up
By Bradley Trevor Greive
A book that uses humorous animal photos to lighten the mood and help the reader hear what it being said. The book first talks about how you may feel if you’re feeling down, and then has some concrete suggestions that can help lift your mood, like taking a short nap, singing your favorite songs, be creative, talking to your friends or thinking about someone you like. It can help to lighten your mood (though it may also feel hard to read when things are really down).
When I Feel Sad (The Way I Feel Books)
Written by Cornelia Maude Spelman, illustrated by Kathy Parkinson.
A sweet, reassuring book about feeling sad. It talks about reasons you might feel sad, the way sadness feels, and some ways to deal with being sad and feel better, such as talking to someone, crying, getting a hug, and then using distraction. The illustrations are sweet and comforting, and may help some children.
And there are also many, many picture books that offer comfort and hope and escape.
What are your picture book suggestions for dealing with trauma and grief?
Today’s guest post about the importance of books is by author and teacher Lorca Damon (YA novel The Earth is for Dancing). I so understand the escape a novel can bring, the way Lorca talks about. Take it away, Lorca!Books Don’t Do Anything
You’re right. They just sit there. They don’t play music or stream YouTube videos. They don’t even beep, although they do make a thudding noise if you throw them on the floor. But for the price of a book, someone who is hurting can be transported to a place away from the pain, loss, and hopelessness, even if it’s just for a little while. For my students, books represent a whole other dimension.
My students are between the ages of nine and eighteen years old, and they are in jail. For them, books take on a whole new meaning: choice. When you go to jail, there are no choices. THIS is the jumpsuit you will put on, including these previously worn socks and underwear. THIS is the cell you will live in, even though it is ten feet by twelve feet and has only a cot and a toilet. THIS is when you will eat, when you will shower, when you will exercise, when you will make a phone call. THIS is how many sheets of paper you can have in your cell, THIS is how you will walk in line. There are no choices.
Except the books.
In our jail, we have a gorgeous library filled with books on a wide range of subjects. To the teachers and the staff, the library represents taking pride in our facility and using our funds wisely. To the youth, it represents being able to make one choice, four days a week. Just that once, they can run their fingers along the spines, read the back covers, and find something to read without anyone telling them what to do or how to do it.
I would have to argue that all teenagers are in jail. No matter where they live or what they have or have not done, there is so little choice in their lives. THIS is where you will go to school. THIS is when you will wake up and go to sleep. THIS is the nice neat little box that your peers have decided you fit into, even if it’s not the box you wanted.
So go to the library. Run your fingers along the spines, smell the pages like I used to do when I thought no one was looking. Read every back cover until you know which one you want to read. Take it home, and escape.
Lorca Damon is a teacher and YA author. Her debut novel, The Earth is for Dancing, is available from Amazon
, Barnes and Noble
, and Kobo
. Her second title, Driving the Demon, is due out in May 2013 from Winter Goose Publishing.
Check out this sweet, heartfelt, honest review of Scars by reader Jacob Lasher. Jacob’s read Scars five times already! (beaming) What a feel-good review from a reader.
By: Cheryl Rainfield
Blog: Cheryl Rainfield: Avid Reader, Teen Fiction Writer, and Book-a-holic. Focus on Children & Teen Books
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I’m excited that my new YA fantasy Parallel Visions is now out in the world! To celebrate, I’m having a contest. Help me get the word out about Parallel Visions, and you’ll be entered to win bookstore giftcards and an ebook reader. It’s $2.99 ebook, and $7.99 print. It’s up on Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords (where you can get it in every ebook format, including for Nook), and will be up on B&N in a few weeks.
Parallel Visions deals with being different, domestic violence, attempted suicide, rape, and asthma, all in a fantasy setting. Like all my books, it’s also written with suspense and hope, and some of my own trauma and abuse experience.
Evelyn Fazio, the same editor who edited my books Scars and Hunted, edited Parallel Visions. I care a lot about Parallel Visions, just like I do all my books. I hope you’ll help me get the word out.
Check out the book trailer!
Help me get the word out about Parallel Visions, and you can win:
- 1 of 2 bookstore giftcards for $10 (at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any other online bookstore)
- 1 of 2 bookstore giftcards for $5 (at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, or any other online bookstore)
- A Kindle, Kobo, or Nook! (Your choice.)
You can get multiple entries to the contest:
- 1 entry for watching the book trailer
- 1 entry per tweet about Parallel Visions or my book trailer http://youtu.be/gcq1veOfnbI (up to 5 entries)
- 1 entry per post on your blog, FaceBook, Google+, or other social network about Parallel Visions or my book trailer (up to 5 entries, 1 per social network)
- 20 entries per ebook or print book bought of Parallel Visions (email me the receipt)
So you could have a total of 31 entries to the contest.
Contest is open worldwide, though the ebook reader is US and Canada only. (UK if the stores ship there.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have so many fantastic picture books I’ve recently read and loved, and I’ve been wanting to share them with you, but I keep getting buried under all my work. So I decided to do a bunch of shorter reviews, all together, of my most recent favorites. I think any of these books would make fantastic gifts!
Written by: Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Recommended Age: 3 and up
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I loved this book so much I bought two copies–one for myself and one for a three-year-old boy I love. The story interested me and is well written, but for me it was the lively, expressive illustrations that really made the book.
In I’m Bored, a little girl is bored until she finds a potato that talks to her. The potato is not any potato–it’s a talking potato–and it’s bored, too. The potato thinks kids are boring, so the little girl sets out to prove that kids are NOT boring. In trying to convince the potato, the little girl realizes just how much she can actually do and what fun she can have. She doesn’t change the potato’s mind–but the grumpy potato is in for a surprise!
Black has written a dryly funny text that both kids and adults will enjoy. Kids will love joining in with the potato’s expected response: Boring, boring, boring! I loved how Black showed how kids can do both real-world things to have fun (turn cartwheels, skip, spin around) and use their imagination (be a ballerina, lion tamer, or fly), and also how he has the child realize that she’s glad she’s a kid. And the twist at the end was perfect! I was also so happy to see a mixture of things the girl could be, that kept it from being really sexist (such as that she could be a lion tamer).
Ohi’s illustrations are so full of life and emotion. Think a potato can’t have expressions or look like a person? Open up I’m Bored and you’ll see differently. With just a few lines Ohi makes the potato come alive just as she does the girl. Ohi’s style reminds me a bit of Mo Willems; I think Ohi will become just as well known and loved.
The illustrations are done in bold black lines, filled out with some color, and the characters really stand out; there is little to no background in most of the spreads. Where the background comes in is when the girl is using her imagination, and then we see dragons and lions, etc in pale blue lines that help the reader understand she’s using her imagination. When the girl uses real-world objects, like a paper box with the faceplate cut out for an astronaut’s helmet, it’s also in bold lines like the girl.
The girl and the potato are both very expressive; I love the expressions on the potato’s face, especially, when he’s bored or surprised. I also love how Ohi gave the girl a pretend sword when she’s a fairy princess with dragons and unicorns, which for me helped that page not be sexist.
I’m Bored is a funny book that will encourage imagination, play, and remind kids that they can do anything they want. It may also help kids (and adults) see that while not everyone may not find you interesting, everyone experiences that, and you can have fun all by yourself. Highly recommended!
Source: I bought the two copies myself. Full disclosure, I know the illustrator, but that does not affect my review. I only review books I absolutely love.
Written by: Shutta Crum
Illustrated by: Patrice Barton
Published by: Knopf Books
Date: Aug 2012
Recommended For: Ages 1 and up
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This is a book I’ve been meaning to review for a while; I first read it as a hardcover picture book and fell in love with it. I recently got the board book as well, and fell in love with it all over again.
In Mine, a toddler who has trouble with sharing learns not only to share, but to make friends–with both the baby and the dog.
This delightful picture book is almost wordless; the only two words that appear are “mine” and “woof” (from the dog).
Shutta captured the childlike joy of play and copying something silly (such as dropping toys into the dog’s water bowl and enjoying the splash, after the dog did that first), as well as the desire to have something be your own. I love how Shutta shows the natural openness and kindness of children (who haven’t been hurt).
Patrice Barton’s style is warm and soft, almost fuzzy, reminiscent of Shirley Hughes. She captures the emotions of the two children and the dog so beautifully, with expressive faces and body language. The illustrations look like watercolor, gouache, and pencil, with shadow grounding the characters and the toys on the ground, and lines to show motion (like throwing a toy). A cute, expressive little dog appears in almost every image, and will be fun for little readers to see what she/he is up to.
There is such a lovely sense of play and fun in this book, and the ending is sweet and heartwarming. It may encourage co-operation, friendship, and play. Highly recommended.
Source: Review copy from the publisher for an honest review. I only review books I love.
The Stone Hatchlings
Written by Sarah Tsiang, illustrated by Qin Leng
Published by: Annick Press
Date: June 2012
Recommended for: Ages 4 and up
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In The Stone Hatchlings, Abby adopts two “eggs”–two smooth stones that she finds in her backyard. She makes a nest for them, sits on them to help them hatch, and then feeds and sings and takes care of her “birds”. Abby spends many happy hours with them, until her interest starts to wane, and she sets them free in her backyard again. This is a wonderful story about the power of a child’s imagination.
I love how Tsiang had Abby’s parents be both honest with her “Those are stones,” and encourage her creativity and imagination by allowing her to sit on the sweater nest and “eggs” during dinner, and trying to see and hear the birds that Abby could so strongly see and hear. This is a warm, friendly story with caring parents and a very creative, nurturing little girl. There’s enough text to make this a book for slightly older children (four or five), but the text never feels too much; it keeps moving the story forward.
Leng’s illustrations are expressive and often humorous, adding little details that weren’t in the text, such as the dog sniffing the father’s smelly feet when Abby tries to take his shoes, or Abby taking the scarf off her mother’s neck for her nest. There’s lots of movement in the illustrations, and a sense of liveliness. Some illustrations use the white page for the background and only show the important foreground details (and so feel more light), and others have a background that helps you see Abby’s house and world (so feel more complete). I liked the movement back and forth between them.
The stones stand out from the watercolor illustrations; they look like photos. Leng deftly adds to the stones when Abby imagines them as birds, adding necks and beaks and wings, showing the reader what Abby imagines but still keeping it grounded in reality.
The Stone Hatchlings is whimsical, imaginative, humorous, at times sad, but with a happy ending. The Stone Hatchlings can encourage creativity, imagination, creative play, and finding joy in simple things. It can also, in a way, deal with loss. Highly recommended!
Source: I bought the book myself from an indie children’s bookstore (Mable’s Fables in Toronto)
Rocket Writes a Story
Written and Illustrated by: Tad Hills
Published by: Schwartz & Wade
Date: July 2012
Recommended for: Ages 4 and up
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In Rocket Writes a Story, Rocket loves to read and to find new words. When his teacher, little yellow bird, asks him what he’s going to do with all the words he’s collected, Rocket decides that he’ll write a story. When Rocket gets stuck, his teacher helps him, and then Rocket learns how to write through his stuckness. When Rocket decides to write about an owl he passes, he gains a new friend.
Hill gives many hints in this book on how to write–from needing good characters, to writing about something that inspires or excites you, to taking time to mull over the story you’re writing, to showing that writing doesn’t always come easily, and that sometimes it helps to take a break from writing to write well. Aspiring and veteran writers will identify with and enjoy Rocket’s attempts–and then success–at writing. I enjoyed the story, though I felt at times that there could be a little less text, and a bit more actual things happening (but that may just be me). I also felt like I didn’t quite connect enough, that I was missing something emotional in the story, though that again could just be me. I loved how Rocket learned to write and enjoy the process, and made a new friend through his story. The ending was feel-good, and felt just right.
Hill’s illustrations are sweet, with soft colors and a softness to the characters. Rocket is adorable, both child-like and dog-like in his exploration of the world and words and new-found love of words and writing. I loved how when Rocket “found” a word, it was through finding that object (like a buttercup). I think that will help children connect to the idea that words are all around us and help us describe our world. This was also echoed in the word pictures that Rocket made, with each word having a drawing next to it (except for words like “to” and “at”). Some spreads have one illustration, some have multiple illustrations per page, moving the reader through the story.
Rocket Writes a Story may encourage a love of books and reading, a love of writing stories, and an interest in words. Recommended!
Source: Review copy from the publisher for an honest review. I only review books I love.
I was so thrilled to see this morning that the print version of Parallel Visions is up on Amazon already! AND it’s also in Amazon’s 4-for-3 promotion–buy four books, get the lower priced one free. (Parallel Visions is $7.99 print, and $2.99 ebook.)
Every print copy (and every ebook copy) has my signature and a message for you.
Parallel Visions is my latest YA fantasy. In case you didn’t hear about it yet:
Kate sees visions of the future and the past–but only when she has an asthma attack. To save her sister and a suicidal classmate, she must trigger more visions–but that could kill her!
This is book one in a series.
Wheeee! The print version of my new YA fantasy Parallel Visions is now up on CreateSpace for $7.99! It should be up on Amazon in 5-6 days, B&N 5-6 weeks. Or, of course, there’s the $2.99 ebook.
There’s a short message and my signature inside each print and ebook copy. I hope you’ll enjoy that!
I got the proof today, and it looks gorgeous! Such a good feeling to hold your own book in your hands! AND to love the cover. (grinning)
To celebrate NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), HarperCollins has 10 writing technique and writing-related ebooks up for $1.99 each (for a limited time). I love writing technique books; I think they help us with our craft, help us to write better. I still buy and read them. So I recommend that if you write or want to write, you pick up some (or all) of these books at this low price. Of course, read a review or two to see if the book fits you.
Reading Like a Writer (P.S.)
by Francine Prose
Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.
In Reading Like a Writer , Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writers—Dostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhov—and discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot’s Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carré for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O’Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.
Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.
Write Away: One Writer’s Approach to the Novel
by Elizabeth George
Here’s a useful book for the novice writer battling the fears and insecurities that attend when she contemplates her first novel. Highly successful as the writer of a dozen novels of suspense (A Place of Hiding, etc.) and a teacher with significant experience, George reveals that those same fears and insecurities still bedevil her. She quickly moves beyond that to a consideration of the craft of writing-mastering the tools and techniques that a writer needs in order to create art. While George illustrates her points with passages from both her own works and those of numerous writers she admires (Martin Cruz Smith, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, Michael Dorris), this remains more of a how-I-do-it book than a how-to-do-it book. Thus George will typically discuss an aspect of writing, such as creating the landscape of a novel, illustrate it with examples from various writers and then show how she approaches it. The result is an informative, instructive and idiosyncratic examination of the structure of the novel and of one writer’s rigorously disciplined approach to creating one. George makes clear that writing is a job and that mastering the tools and techniques of the craft can go a long way toward making a writer successful. Finally, she advocates self-discipline, or what Bryce Courtenay (The Power of One) calls “bum glue.” As George puts it, “A lot of writing is simply showing up… day after day, same time and same place.” Both aspiring writers and fans of George’s novels should enjoy the author’s insights into the creative process.
How Not to Write a Novel
by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
“What do you think of my fiction book writing?” the aspiring novelist extorted.
“Darn,” the editor hectored, in turn. “I can not publish your novel! It is full of what we in the business call ‘really awful writing.’”
“But how shall I absolve this dilemma? I have already read every tome available on how to write well and get published!” The writer tossed his head about, wildly.
“It might help,” opined the blonde editor, helpfully, “to ponder how NOT to write a novel, so you might avoid the very thing!”
Many writing books offer sound advice on how to write well. This is not one of those books. On the contrary, this is a collection of terrible, awkward, and laughably unreadable excerpts that will teach you what to avoid—at all costs—if you ever want your novel published.
In How Not to Write a Novel, authors Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman distill their 30 years combined experience in teaching, editing, writing, and reviewing fiction to bring you real advice from the other side of the query letter. Rather than telling you how or what to write, they identify the 200 most common mistakes unconsciously made by writers and teach you to recognize, avoid, and amend them. With hilarious “mis-examples” to demonstrate each manuscript-mangling error, they’ll help you troubleshoot your beginnings and endings, bad guys, love interests, style, jokes, perspective, voice, and more. As funny as it is useful, this essential how-NOT-to guide will help you get your manuscript out of the slush pile and into the bookstore.
Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing
For more than forty years, distinguished author Roger Rosenblatt has also been a teacher of writing, guiding students with the same intelligence and generosity he brings to the page, answering the difficult questions about what makes a story good, an essay shapely, a novel successful, and the most profound and essential question of them all—why write?
Unless It Moves the Human Heart details one semester in Rosenblatt’s “Writing Everything” class. In a series of funny, intimate conversations, a diverse group of students—from Inur, a young woman whose family is from Pakistan, to Sven, an ex–fighter pilot—grapples with the questions and subjects most important to narrative craft. Delving into their varied lives, Rosenblatt brings readers closer to them, emotionally investing us in their failures and triumphs.
More than a how-to for writers and aspiring writers, more than a memoir of teaching, Unless It Moves the Human Heart is a deeply felt and impassioned plea for the necessity of writing in our lives. As Rosenblatt wisely reminds us, “Writing is the cure for the disease of living. Doing it may sometimes feel like an escape from the world, but at its best moments it is an act of rescue.”
Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True
by Elizabeth Berg
The writer’s guide of the year, Escaping into the Open combines Elizabeth Berg’s very personal story of her journey from working mother to successful writer, with encouraging words on how to write straight from the heart. Filled with inspirational advice and sprinkled with stories of her own experience, as well as that of other writers, the book also provides helpful hints about what one needs to get started, effective techniques to unleash creativity, and ways to deal with rejection — and success — in the writer’s world. Escaping into the Open is full of warmth and encouragement and illuminating truths about the writing life.
How to Write: Advice and Reflections
by Richard Chodes
Uniquely fusing practical advice on writing with his own insights into the craft, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes constructs beautiful prose about the issues would-be writers are most afraid to articulate: How do I dare write? Where do I begin? What do I do with this story I have to tell that fills and breaks my heart? Rich with personal vignettes about Rhode’s sources of inspiration, How to Write is also a memoir of one of the most original and celebrated writers of our day.
Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing
by Elmore Leonard
“These are the rules I’ve picked up along the way to help me remain invisible when I’m writing a book, to help me show rather than tell what’s taking place in the story.”—Elmore Leonard
For aspiring writers and lovers of the written word, this concise guide breaks down the writing process with simplicity and clarity. From adjectives and exclamation points to dialect and hoopetedoodle, Elmore Leonard explains what to avoid, what to aspire to, and what to do when it sounds like “writing” (rewrite).
Beautifully designed, filled with free-flowing, elegant illustrations and specially priced, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is the perfect writer’s—and reader’s—gift.
On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction
by William Zinsser
On Writing Well has been praised for its sound advice, its clarity and the warmth of its style. It is a book for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day, as almost everybody does in the age of e-mail and the Internet. Whether you want to write about people or places, science and technology, business, sports, the arts or about yourself in the increasingly popular memoir genre, On Writing Well offers you fundamental priciples as well as the insights of a distinguished writer and teacher. With more than a million copies sole, this volume has stood the test of time and remains a valuable resource for writers and would-be writers.
The Writing Life
by Annie Dillard
With color, irony and sensitivity, Pulitzer prize-winner Annie Dillard illuminates the dedication absurdity, and daring that is the writer’s life. As it probes and exposes, examines and analyzes, The Writing Life offers deeper insight into one of the most mysterious of professions.
Write for Your Life
by Lawrence Block
Based on Lawrence Block’s extremely popular seminar for writers. Discover Block’s tips for overcoming writer’s block and unleashing your creativity.
My new YA fantasy Parallel Visions is out! In Parallel Vision, Kate sees visions of the future and the past–but only when she has an asthma attack. To save her sister and a suicidal classmate, Kate must trigger more visions–but that could kill her!
Only $2.99 as an ebook on Amazon and Kobo and it should be up on B&N and for iPad, and in print in the next month or so.
It deals with domestic violence, attempted suicide, bullying, homophobia, and rape, all in a fantasy setting. And it also has hope, like all my novels. And the same editor who edited Scars and Hunted edited Parallel Visions.
Curious? You can read the first chapter on Amazon (click on the cover where it says “Click To Look Inside”).
This is the first book in a series.
I really hope you’ll check it out, and if you like it, let others know about it. (smiling)
Want to add it to your GoodReads TBR list? You can do that here.
I also just got my first review of Parallel Visions from Jenuine Cupcakes
, a book blogger who also blogs on, and put the review up on, Young Adult Books Central.
WOW! No sooner had I posted that, then Jane of Lindsay and Jane’s Views and Reviews posted a glowing 4-star review of Parallel Visions. I am SO glad that Jane, who has asthma, felt the real-ness of Kate’s asthma in the book! I recently developed asthma, but have never had as bad an attack as I wrote into the book. But I have had my breathing stopped by my abusers. So I used my asthma experience, trauma experience, research, and imagination to write it. I’m delighted it felt true to her!
And, hey–what do you think of the cover? I really love it. (grinning)
Today YA author Jocelyn Shipley talks to us about writing–the heartaches and the joys. Jocelyn Shipley is the author of How to Tend a Grave,
Getting A Life, and Cross My Heart, and co-editor of Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls. Take it away, Jocelyn!
All I Really Need to Know About Writing
by Jocelyn Shipley
I’d like to thank Cheryl very much for inviting me to do a guest post about writing. What an honour! I met Cheryl some years ago through CANSCAIP and always admire and am inspired by her dedication to books and reading, her constant efforts to stand up to book banners, and her support of other writers. Plus she has the best smile!
It’s been twenty years since I took my first writing class, and ten since I published my first book. After all that time and five more books, you’d think I should know almost everything there is to know about writing. But I don’t. I have to tell you that most days, I still feel like a beginner. All I really know is how much I don’t know.
I used to be confident that if I worked hard enough, I’d figure everything out and be set for life. Didn’t happen. Writing didn’t get any easier. In fact it got harder, because my expectations got higher. I put so much pressure on myself to grow as a writer and achieve more. I’m no longer satisfied with simply completing a manuscript – I want it to be better, much better, than my last one.
But my attempts to improve my craft often fall short. On bad days, when my words won’t flow, my characters won’t come alive, my plots bore me and I’m out of ideas, the urge to shred every printout, delete every file, throw the laptop out the window and bang my head against my desk for the rest of my life is strong. Hey, it even sounds like fun. More fun than writing, anyway.
What keeps me going?
On good days, and there are also plenty of those, writing is a way to explore the world, to figure out why we’re here and what it all means. Not that I expect to find clear answers. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. But writing is my attempt at making sense of things.
Somehow life is easier to understand through a story. There’s something so satisfying about creating a bit of order out of the randomness of daily experience. It uplifts and renews me to take raw emotions and conflict and try to put them into words, the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, the paragraphs into chapters, and finally the chapters into a book that I hope will resonate with others.
Writing makes me feel whole and grounded and engaged with life and I’d probably go mad if I ever stopped. So I guess you could say that along with everything I don’t know about writing, there is one thing I do know for sure. It’s simply this: Even though writing sometimes makes me crazy, it always keeps me sane. And I think maybe that’s all I’m ever going to figure out. But it’s probably all I really need to know.
Thank you, Jocelyn! I so identify with writing helping you feel whole and grounded–I need to write, and it can help heal us, I believe. And I also really identify with the need to keep making a manuscript better–that it’s not enough to just complete a manuscript. Of course we want polished writing that is going to reach people (and get published). I think a lot of writers can relate to that.
About Jocelyn Shipley
Jocelyn Shipley’s YA novel, How to Tend a Grave, won the 2012 Gold Medal Moonbeam Award for YA Fiction – Mature Issues. She is co-editor of Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, and her other books for teens include Seraphina’s Circle, Cross My Heart, and Getting A Life. Her work has been translated into many languages for Stabenfeldt’s tween book club GIRL:IT, and her award-winning stories have appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines. She lives in Toronto and on Vancouver Island, Canada.
Connect with Jocelyn online:
In Ontario? Join me with HUNTED, Megan Crewe with THE WAY WE FALL, Lesley Livingston with STARLING, Maureen McGowan with DEVIANTS, Leah Bobet with ABOVE, and Courtney Summers with THIS IS NOT A TEST at 4 different Chapters/Indigo locations! Come get signed books, and enter to win a prizepack.
And in case you didn’t know–my dystopian HUNTED is up for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy! (beaming) AND so is Lesley Livingston’s Tempestuous! So you’ve got two award finalists right there. All of the writers in the tour write gripping books that you’ll want to pick up.
Tuesday Nov 6, 7pm – Indigo Yorkdale, Yorkdale Mall (Toronto) – Leah Bobet, Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Maureen McGowan, Cheryl Rainfield. RSVP on Facebook!
Saturday Nov 10, 2pm – Chapters Belleville, Quinte Mall – Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Maureen McGowan, Cheryl Rainfield, Courtney Summers. RSVP on Facebook!
Saturday Nov 17, 2pm – Chapters Brampton, 52 Quarry Edge Drive – Leah Bobet, Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Maureen McGowan, Cheryl Rainfield. RSVP on Facebook!
Saturday Nov 24, 2pm – Chapters Barrie, 76 Barrie View Drive – Leah Bobet, Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Maureen McGowan, Cheryl Rainfield. RSVP on Facebook!
At each event, you can enter to win prizes, including an advance copy of Megan Crewe’s The Lives We Lost, and an ebook or print copy of my new (not yet released) YA fantasy Parallel Vision.
If you’d like to help spread the word, you’re welcome to borrow that e-poster and any text from this post.
Hope to see you there!
When I was a teen being sexually abused and cutting to cope, thinking about suicide, and just struggling to survive, I had no voice. I didn’t even know if I’d make it. Writing and art were the only way I could talk in a real way–they became my voice, though very few people ever heard it. But I have a strong voice now–through my books, and through my Dear Teen Me letter included in the new Dear Teen Me anthology. I’m honored and excited that my letter is included!
In my letter, I drew on the trauma I endured, the overwhelming pain, and the inner strength and courage I needed to survive. If you’ve read my books Scars or Hunted, you’ll know that I write with emotion and honesty, and I don’t shy away from painful things. That’s just the way I write in my Dear Teen Me letter. I think it’s so important that teens (and adults) know that they’re not alone in their pain or the awful things they’ve experienced; when you feel like you’re alone, the pain gets stronger. But when you find out others understand, the pain lessens a little, even sometimes a lot. You see that others survived, and maybe you can, too.
I was in so much pain and despair as a teen (and had been my entire life) that I thought that’s how my life would always be. It felt so unbearable I often didn’t want to be here. Now I’m glad I survived.
It felt good to be able to talk to my teen self, and to all the other teens (and adults) out there who’ve known pain, who’ve struggled, and who need to know there’s hope. There is. It does get better! If you don’t give up, if you keep on reaching for the things you need, you’ll get a lot of them.
Here’s a small glimpse into what my Dear Teen Me letter is about:
There are a ton of YA authors in this anthology who I love and admire, and who you probably have read and enjoyed, including Ellen Hopkins, Sara Zarr, Carrie Jones, Lauren Oliver, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Melissa Walker, Mike Jung, Stephanie Kuehnert, Riley Carney, Tera Lynn Childs, and many more. Want to know all the contributing authors? Check out the link.
I like knowing what other authors I love and admire have gone through in their lives–like knowing a bit more about them–so I bet you do, too. Dear Teen Me is a great way to get a glimpse into authors’ lives. Each letter is different–written in that author’s unique voice, and specific about their lives–and each letter is fascinating! So many things you might not know otherwise. Do you know which writer lived next door to Bob Hope, and had a father who was 72 when she was born, and was adopted? Or which writer had an alcoholic father who neglected her, and made her feel rejected? Or which writer had a bully who ended up being nice to her in the end?
Sound interesting? Then enter my giveaway to win an autographed copy of Dear Teen Me (signed by 3-4 contributors), and some bookmarks!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Dear Teen Me prize pack
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves
(Zest Books, October 30, 2012, $14.99; ISBN 978-1-9369762-1-8)
edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson.
Zest Books, a leading publisher of nonfiction for young adult readers, is distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It is available wherever books are sold!
I’m only one stop in the blog tour for Dear Teen Me. Check out the others here:
Zest Books website
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By: Cheryl Rainfield
Blog: Cheryl Rainfield: Avid Reader, Teen Fiction Writer, and Book-a-holic. Focus on Children & Teen Books
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, YA author chat
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, Christopher Paolini
, fantasy author chat
, Rachel Hartman
, Stefan Bachmann
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Join three best-selling fantasy authors in an online video chat on Shindig.com!
In Conversation with Rachel Hartman, Stefan Bachmann, and Christopher Paolini
November 28, 2012, from 2PM – 3PM
Rachel Hartman, author of the critically acclaimed, instant New York Times bestseller SERAPHINA; Stefan Bachmann, author of THE PECULIAR (Harper Collins), and Christopher Paolini, author of the international bestselling series the Inheritance cycle and, most recently, the INHERITANCE deluxe edition, will discuss what inspires them & their characters and take viewer questions.
See Shindig for more information.
- Connect with Rachel Hartman:
- Connect with Stefan Bachmann
- Connect with Christopher Paolini
Don’t forget–if you’re in the Toronto area, come out tonight to Indigo Yorkdale at 7pm to get signed books from me, Megan Crewe, Lesley Livingston, Maureen McGowan, and Leah Bobet!
You can enter giveaways from each of the authors. I’ll be giving away an ebook copy of my newest YA fantasy novel Parallel Visions, about Kate who gets visions of the future–only when she has an asthma attack. To save her sister and a suicidal classmate, she must have more visions–but that could kill her.
I’ll also have free Hunted bookmarks, short story postcards, and a limited number of Hunted postcard comics.
We’ll also, this month, be dropping by Belleville, Barrie, and Brampton!
Hope to see you there.
Imagine if, no matter how many books you read, you couldn’t find any main characters that you could see yourself in. Think of how alone you’d feel. Maybe you’d start to feel like something was wrong with you. Shameful. Or maybe you’d just feel not seen. Not having yourself represented in books is like being invisible. It’s like people are saying you don’t matter, you’re not good enough to appear in a book.
I think it’s important that we all have reflections of ourselves in books. And including many diverse characters, not just straight, white, able-bodied characters, is a more complete representation of our real world. I also think that if we have diversity in YA novels, if we normalize it (as i believe we should), it may eventually help some readers to be less homophobic, less racist, more accepting of many different people–all without preaching, just because they read books they love with characters who aren’t like them.
Right now, our real world of diverse human beings isn’t reflected much in YA fiction.
Malindo Lo looked at YA books published in 2012* and found only 44 YA books with LGBT main characters or even about characters dealing with LGBT issues–out of close to 5,000 YA books! So approximately 1.6% of all YA books in 2012 had LGBT content–and likely many of them did not have LGBT main characters or secondary characters. That is a dismal figure! AND out of that 1.6% of all LGBT YA lit published in 2012, LGBT publishers published 37% of those LGBT books. So right now, small presses are publishing a LOT of diverse voices that might not otherwise be heard. I hope that in the future, mainstream publishers will become more open and publish a lot more LGBT and characters of color books.
In 2009, Jacket Whys blog looked at 775 YA novels and found only 2% with people of color on the covers. Two percent?? That’s not representative of our society at all!
So what’s happening here?
I think that there are more white, straight, able-bodied authors being published than authors of color, LGBT, or differently abled. But I also think that many white, straight authors are afraid to write books with characters of races or sexual orientations that are different from their own–afraid of doing it wrong, of being attacked for trying and not coming up to exacting standards.
And then, too, there are the publishers themselves, the editors and marketing departments who may think that books that aren’t about straight white characters won’t sell. (Publishing is a business.) I also think it’s harder to get books with non-white, non-straight characters published if you’re a first-time author. It’s easier to start incorporating those elements if your books sell well, you have a readership, and publishers decide they can give you more leniency. But just because it’s harder doesn’t mean you can’t do it! My first book, Scars, has a lesbian main character in a happy relationship. My most recent book, Hunted, has a black love interest, and a lesbian friend.
The push-backs are real.
It took me ten years to get Scars published, and a heck of a lot of rejections–and during the last few years, I didn’t change the manuscript. I think it took finding the right editor and publishing house who was open to a queer main character (that also dealt with self-harm and sexual abuse). Megan Crewe was told by some agents that a manuscript she was working on–an urban fantasy set in Japan–would be very difficult to sell because of the location. Jessica Verday was told that the gay YA fairy story she submitted to an anthology was inappropriate for anthology and would have to change it to male-female (or straight). (I’m so glad so many authors pulled out of that anthology! But it’s still unacceptable to me–and yet a sign of how homophobic our society still is.) And think, too, of the many whitewashed covers in YA fiction, such as Justine Larebalestier’s Liar (Micah is black, but they put a white girl on cover), and Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass (they used a pale skinned model for a dark skinned character). There have been many more whitewashed covers over the years. It helps when, as readers and as writers, we speak out and let publishers know we’re not okay with such injustices. But I wish we didn’t have to do that at all.
What Can We do To Help?
As readers, I think it’s important to buy and read books that have diverse characters. And it also really helps to talk about, review, and get the word out about those books you’ve enjoyed!
As writers, I think it’s important to start consciously bringing in diverse characters when they fit the fabric of your story. Think about your main character–does she or he have to be straight, white, or able? Or your secondary characters. Think too about your walk-on characters. Do they really all need to be white or straight?
If more writers submit more books that have diverse characters, then there will be more books published with diverse characters. But we also need to help get the word out about the books that are out there, need to buy those books, so publishers will start to see that that books resonate, that people will buy those books, and then they’ll also put effort into marketing and selling those books.
How to incorporate diversity in your manuscript when it’s not your own experience.
If you’re a writer and you want to bring some greater diversity into your novels, how do you do it? Well, first, I want to say thank you; I’m so glad you’re thinking about it. If you’re going to write a character who doesn’t have your own cultural or sexual orientation experience, it helps to research it. Read books and articles, especially from people who have those experiences. You can also talk to people who have that experience, even join elists on the subject, if that’s permitted. And, if possible, get someone else who has that experience to read your story and give you feedback. But go for it! As writers, we write both what we know, and what we imagine. We try to put ourselves into other people’s lives, and help our readers do that, too. Writing books is the perfect way to explore lives that aren’t our own, or to have a voice when we may not have had one before.
Some Book Recommendations
This is only a starting point. You’ll find many others if you search the subjects online, or ask a librarian.
LGBT YA Fantasy
LGBT main characters in YA fantasy:
Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo
Tithe by Holly Black, and all her other books.
Hero by Perry Moore
City of Ruin by Mark Charon Newton,
Banshee by Hayden Thorne
Magic’s Pawn (The Last Herald-Mage Series, Book 1) by Mercedes Lackey
Radiant Days by Elizabeth Hand.
secondary LGBT chararacters in many books including:
Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield
Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima
Many of Alyxandra Harvey’s books have LGBT characters in them.
LGBT YA Realistic
Keeping You a Secret (lesbian), Luna (trans) by Julie Anne Peters, and many others by Julie Anne Peters.
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (and many others by Nancy)
Empress of the World by Sara Ryan.
Shine and Kissing Kate and by Lauren Myracle.
Scars by Cheryl Rainfield
Money Boy by Paul Yee
Absolutely Positively Not (Sid Fleischman Humor Award) by David LaRochelle
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, and many other books by David.
Babylon Boyz by Jess Mowry
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
Totally Joe by James Howe (and many other books by James)
Perfect by Ellen Hopkins and many others by Ellen have secondary LGBT characters.
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson, and many other books by Jacqueline.
For more suggestions, check out Lee Wind’s I’m Here, I’m Queer, What The Hell Do I Read? and BonjourCass’ LGBTQ Book Blogger Directory.
Multicultural YA Fantasy
Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo
Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix by Cindy Pon
Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield
Tithe by Holly Black and all her other books.
Fair Coin and Quantum Coin by E. C. Myers
The Secret Keepers by Paul Yee
Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestir (Australian and half Aborigine),
The Wizard Heir by Cinda Williams Chima and all her other books.
The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress (Japanese character)
Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce (major black character)
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Intruments trilogy (Asian love interest)
The Gathering series by Kelley Armstrong
Multicultural YA Realistic
From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun by Jacqueline Woodson, and many other boosk by Jacqueline.
Illegally Blonde by Nelsa Roberto (Portuguese main character)
Money Boy by Paul Yee
Babylon Boyz by Jess Mowry
Liar by Justine Larbalestier
For more suggestions, check out Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon’s Diversity In YA.
Differently-Abled YA Fantasy
Every Day by David Levithan
Annerton Pit by Peter Dickinson (blind character
The Angel Experiment: A Maximum Ride Novel (Book 1) by James Patterson (secondary character is blind)
Stravaganza: City of Secrets (dyslexia)
Differently Abled YA Realistic
Girl, Stolen by April Henry (blind character)
Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (character lost both hands)
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (deaf character)
The White Darkness by Geraldine Mccaughrean (hearing impaired)
See Top Fiction for Children, Teens, and Adults With Disabilities for more recommendations.
There’s also disorders, chronic illnesses, and mental/psychological issues to consider.
Have recommendations of other books? Leave them in the comments.
Most of the information in this post I talked about at World Fantasy Convention 2012, on the YA Diversity Panel, and some I heard from my fellow panelists Megan Crewe, Cinda Williams Chima, EC Myers, and moderator Kathy Sullivan.
*Malinda Lo’s post was created during Pride Month, June, so she may not have known all the books for the year coming out, but probably had a pretty good idea.
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There are some interesting looking YA books on sale this month ($2.99 or less) on Amazon.
by S.J. Kincaid (HarperCollins)
On sale for $2.99 (Reg $17.99)
More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.
Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War III. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?
Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.
by Wendy Delsol (Candlewick)
On sale for $2.99 (Reg $8.99)
Oh baby! A hip heroine discovers that she has the ability to decide who gets pregnant in this witty YA blend of romance and the supernatural. Sixteen-year-old Katla has just moved from Los Angeles to the sticks of Minnesota. As if it weren’t enough that her trendy fashion sense draws stares, she learns to her horror that she’s a member of an ancient order of women who decide to whom certain babies will be born. Add to that Wade, the arrogant football star whom Katla regrettably fooled around with, and Jack, a gorgeous farm boy who initially seems to hate her. Soon Katla is having freaky dreams about a crying infant and learns that, as children, she and Jack shared a near-fatal, possibly mystical experience. Can Katla survive this major life makeover and find a dress for the homecoming dance? Drawing from Norse mythology and inspired by The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, debut author Wendy Delsol conceives an irreverent, highly entertaining novel about embracing change and the (baby) bumps along the way.
So Close to You
By Rachel Carter (HarperCollins)
On sale for $2.99 (Reg $9.99)
Lydia Bentley has heard stories about the Montauk Project all her life: stories about the strange things that took place at the abandoned military base near her home and the people who’ve disappeared over the years. Stories about people like her own great-grandfather.
When Lydia stumbles into a portal that transports her to a dangerous and strange new reality, she discovers that all the stories she’s ever heard about the Montauk Project are true, and that she’s in the middle of one of the most dangerous experiments in history.
Alongside a darkly mysterious boy she is wary to trust, Lydia begins to unravel the secrets surrounding the Project. But the truths behind these secrets force her to question all her choices—and if Lydia chooses wrong, she might not save her family but destroy them . . . and herself.
By Kristina Dunker (Amazon Crossing)
On sale for $1.99 (Reg $7.99)
Eva is sixteen and experiencing all of the excitement of being in love for the first time. And this weekend promises to be special, as she and her boyfriend, Julian, will be spending time at his parents’ country house. Nothing could be more perfect. Except the journey to the country is anything but, and Eva’s dream weekend is turning into a total nightmare.
When Eva’s train is delayed, she is unable to pick up Julian. She soon finds herself alone on a forest road late at night—and the witness to a group of teenagers beating a young boy. As she somehow sneaks by unnoticed, she also loses her diary, an incredibly personal book that holds all of her secrets—including details of her visits to a psychotherapist. So when she meets a kindred spirit who shares her demons and seems to know so much, she has to wonder whether he has read her thoughts.
Exploring the hopes, fears, and dangers of adolescence Vertigo spins a riveting tale of extraordinary emotional range and intensity.
Smart Girls Get What They Want
By Sarah Strohmeyer (HarperCollins)
On sale for $2.99 (Reg $9.99)
Gigi, Bea, and Neerja are best friends and total overachievers. Even if they aren’t the most popular girls in school, they aren’t too worried. They know their real lives will begin once they get to their Ivy League colleges. There will be ivy, and there will be cute guys in the libraries (hopefully with English accents)! But when an unexpected event shows them they’re missing out on the full high school experience, it’s time to come out of the honors lounge and into the spotlight. They make a pact: They will each take on their greatest challenge—and they will totally rock it.
Gigi decides to run for student rep, but she’ll have to get over her fear of public speaking—and go head-to-head with gorgeous California Will. Bea used to be one of the best skiers around, until she was derailed. It could be time for her to take the plunge again. And Neerja loves the drama club but has always stayed behind the scenes—until now.
These friends are determined to show the world that smart girls really can get what they want—but that could mean getting way more attention than they ever bargained for. . . .