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Seventeen-year-old Lark Singer only has two things going for her, her music and her best friend Bean. While entering a competition she hopes will launch their music career, Lark searches for answers that will make her whole. Her quest reveals some secrets that those around her would rather keep hidden. As the competition looms closer, Lark discovers not only who she really is, but also who her real friends are. Then tragedy threatens everything she has worked so hard to accomplish. Can she pick up the pieces and move on?
I want to be like Gideon Lee.My lips move as I read the title of my essay. They twitch as I stifle a snicker. Looking around the room, I make sure no one has seen my facial tic. My eyes light upon the Presidents’ pictures lined up on the wall. They face me, each with a unique expression, and I wonder what they were thinking while they posed. They are above the clock so my gaze naturally falls on it. It’s almost time for lunch.
I settle back in my seat and my lips twitch again. A feeling of defiant exhilaration washes over me like a tidal wave.
Montgomery’s going to freak when he reads this.
Despite my best efforts, a giggle escapes and the boy in front of me turns around and gives me the evil eye. I return the glare. He is slumped over, and sweat beads on his upper lip. I think this is odd — it’s rather chilly in the room — but dismiss it before I turn back to my essay.
I bet old man Montgomery doesn’t even know who Gideon Lee is. This thought sends another giggle to the surface, but I quickly squash it by biting my lip.
I picture him searching Gideon Lee’s name on the Internet. I see his expression changing from confusion to disgust. I imagine him taking off his black, thick-rimmed glasses and shaking his head. I hear him mutter, “Lark Singer, what are you doing?” He rubs his face. I can actually hear the rough sandpapery sound as his hand finds his day old stubble. He sighs and puts his glasses back on. “What am I going to do with you?”
I remember when Mr. Montgomery first told us about the assignment. We were supposed to write an essay on someone we admire, someone who has contributed to society in some way. I know when he says this he wants us to write about an a historical figure. After all this is history class, but I raised my hand anyway.
“Lark,” he called out as he stood at his lectern.
“Do they have to be dead?”
He cocked his head as he studied me with his piercing blue eyes. Then he ran his hand over his military style crew cut, and I watched as his salt and pepper hair flattened then popped back into place as if each hair was standing at attention. I could tell he wasn’t sure where this was going.
“Well… I guess not.” That’s when he froze, as if he realized he had just opened a door for me and he wasn’t going to like what was on the other side. He shifted his weight, and looked down at the floor before he backpedaled. “But they have to have made a positive contribution to society. It can’t be about a mobster or anything like that.” Pursing his lips, he stared at me, fiddling with those glasses. “This is one half of your semester grade, Lark. I wouldn’t pull any funny stuff.”
“Oh, I won’t. Scout’s honor,” I answered sweetly, placing my hand over my heart and giving him the scout salute, while inside I planned my rebellion.
I have him. I’m going to write about Gideon Lee, and there’s nothing he can do about it.
Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. Hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade, she even wrote a few
of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. Her first series, “The Super Spies,” has reached bestseller status.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree, she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side. The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on a Coming of Age Young Adult series called The Starlight Chronicles. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.
This is Chapter 3 of the new novel I’m working on. This book is a piece of Young Adult Fiction. Young readers should be particularly advised that this chapter is harsh, and if this were a movie, it would be given a PG-13 rating. Chapters 1 and 2 are published here also at www.toniaalengould.com. I’m uncertain how many chapters I will publish here on this blog. Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated, and please kindly note that this is only fairly edited to this point.
Meet My Daddy
Last night, when the house was quiet and nothing was keeping the room lit but for the dime store digital alarm clock Mama got me and Bartlett for Christmas last year; my sister broke the night’s calm by shifting her weight and turning over in her bed to face me in mine. “Barley, you awake?” she whispered. Not waiting for me to answer she continued, “It’s real late and daddy ain’t home yet. When he gets in, I don’t want you to make one single, solitary sound in here, no matter what happens. You hear me?” Bartlett pleaded. I shivered and pulled the covers tighter over my body and used the top of them to wipe the tears that already began to roll as big as dimes down my cheek and said, “Uh huh, I hear you,” I said, knowing she was right and that the shit was about to hit the fan. I tried to muster a voice inside me big and loud, but what came out of my mouth squeaked like one of those kangaroo mice that we occasionally caught meekly poking their heads out of our paneled wood walls, disappearing as quickly as they came, here and gone again, just like my tears now. My whole body began to tremble and shake and my feet were so cold, it felt like I had popsicles for toes.
Bartlett rose up out of her bed looking like a ghost or something, looming over me like that in her cotton white nightgown; her face was nothing but a shadow in the darkness, and for a second, I thought I was dreaming or having a nightmare or something. I pinched myself sharply and only when I felt the pain was I certain she was real and not a figment of my imagination. Finally, she sat down on the edge of my bed. “Sit up for a second,” she said, as she pulled back the covers and tugged at my arms, effortlessly bringing me up next to her. I couldn’t make out her face in the darkness, although her white cotton nightgown seemed to illuminate the whole bedroom. She stroked my long, dark hair and whispered in my ear. I know she could feel me trembling beside her, and even though sometimes I hated her, I was so grateful for my sister’s warmth tonight. “Shhh,” she said. “Maybe it won’t be so bad this time. Give me a hug and try to go on back to sleep now and remember that no matter what happens, you stay in this here bed and don’t get outta it for anything, until Kingdom come if you have to, or at least until I say so” she said, as she pulled me tighter in next to her body. I hugged her limply, like something had sucked the bones out of me and I was nothing but a gob of dangling, cold skin, but it weren’t for but a second, before she got up and paced across the room to check on Graham, who was sleeping soundly in his own bed. I knew Bartlett would be by his side stifling him, muzzling his mouth if she had to, if things got really ugly. So I just laid there—cold and limp, a lifeless, waiting, trembling, hoping and praying mass-of-a-child. If you’ve never had the experience, waiting for something bad to happen feels like all the oxygen has been snatched-up outta the air, your throat and lips feel awfully dry, you can’t hardly swallow your own spit for the lump in your throat won’t let it go down, and it’s as if the Earth collapsed and shattered to giants chunks of rubble around you, pinning you in and leaving you breathless. Yes. Waiting feels like something big and looming and enormous like that.
Another hour or so must’ve passed as we laid there in silence before the headlights from daddy’s ’59 Impala finally ricocheted off the walls and reflected from the mirror that sat on top of our dresser. The light was so bright, it was blinding, and it felt like Lord Jesus had come to take us home. I could hear the tires spitting-up gravel from the driveway and the pistons rumble and fade away into the darkness once Daddy turned off the ignition. Moments pass and he finally gets out of the car, slamming the door forcibly as he exits. Then the thud, thud, thud of his feet comin’ up the porch steps, tromping the whole way. Suddenly, I became consumed by each and every sound my father was making, each noise was a siren, a warning call that rang loud and true and into the stillness of the night. It was almost more than I could bear, waitin’ for my Daddy to find his keys and enter the trailer. I wasn’t breathing, but I wasn’t holding my breath neither, it’s like I had my foot stomped on and was punched in the belly all at the same time. Rattle, Rattle, rattle; he fumbled with the doorknob, turned it, and then finally fell into the kitchen which was right outside our bedroom. He was struggling to find the light switch; I could hear him grasping at the walls, groping the wood paneling, and scraping the dinette chairs across the floor as he clumsily made his way to the light switch across the small kitchen.
From where I was laying, I could see the dark outline of his body through the crack in our bedroom door. I screeched a bit when he finally turned on the light, it surprised me so much, since I had become particularly fixated on all the sounds he was making and due to the suspense of it all. Bartlett shushed me again, but fortunately Daddy hadn’t heard me. Bartlett was right, it was best to pretend I was asleep, but I couldn’t help but watch through that small opening in our bedroom door.
I wanted to roll over in my bed and face Bartlett, but it was too darn late, I had to lay still, or I might’ve caught Daddy’s attention, so I watched as he tried to navigate around the kitchen. Daddy has knocked over a chair, and I watch as he stumbled and fell forward, trying to pick it up. When he finally brought the chair upright, he heaved his body into and lit himself up a Marlboro, and thankfully the whole trailer fell quiet again. We can hear Mama as she slowly eased herself up out of her bed through the paper thin walls leading to the bedroom next to ours. The rickety old box springs from the cast iron bed Mama and Daddy got from a flea market, is the only thing to break the silence. “No Mama,” I prayed. “Please don’t get up. Let him be. Don’t go in there,” I prayed. But I knew God wasn’t listening to Barley Sullivan tonight, because I watched as Mama drowsily entered the kitchen, wiping the sleep out of her reddened eyes. I could see that mom had been crying, and guessed probably she had cried the whole night long. The stench of the alcohol on Daddy’s breath, and what smells like a somewhat familiar perfume now permeates the air throughout the entire trailer. Mama is ten shades of mad because Daddy has been out so late. She glances around the kitchen in disbelief. “Earl, it looks like a God-damned circus ran through here,” she says as she stoops to pick up an errant chair up off the floor. Mama’s right. It was a circus in there and unbeknownst to her; she just stepped into the lion’s lair. Like I’ve said before, Mama didn’t have too much common sense.
“You think ya can just saunter on in here, any old time ya God-damned want, drunker than a skunk and smellin’ like June’s cheap-ass perfume all the time? I’m getting pretty fuckin’ sick and tired of it, Earl!” she yells. “If my brother John gets a hold of you, he’s gonna kill you for runnin’ around with her like that. What? You think I don’t know? I’m not fuckin’ stupid,” my Mama laughs. The argument ensues, both of them screaming back and forth at one another, but some of what they are talking about makes absolutely no sense to me—like what does Aunt June have to do with any of this, anyway? It’s all over my head, and Daddy is so belligerent, I can’t make sense of what he is saying at all. Their voices rise another octave, and the neighbor’s dog, George, begins to bark and that beckons other dogs in the trailer park to wake and come alive with their unrelenting barking. Daddy’s voice suddenly shifts to a dangerous tone, and I can feel it in my gut. It’s too late, there’s no undoing what’s Mama’s done. She has incensed my father.
Despite Bartlett’s admonishment, I sit up on the side of my bed, my legs dangling, holding on tightly to the stuffed monkey I got from that time I got put in the hospital when my appendix almost burst. Doctor Cooper gave him to me. I loved that stuffed monkey because he reminded me of a special time. For two weeks, while I was in the hospital, I got to eat all the ice cream I ever wanted, there weren’t any televisions on blaring loudly twenty-four-hours a day, and Daddy and Mama weren’t there fighting about things I just didn’t understand, like they were doing tonight. Hell, Mama and Daddy barely even came to see me when I was in the hospital back when I was only just nine-years-old, and oddly enough, I was okay with that. Those two weeks were the first time in my life I had ever experienced what silence was. I could think there in the hospital. I wasn’t all wound-up and scared all the time. In fact, it felt like I had boarded a plane, and landed in some faraway perfect place. For a kid like me, growing up in a trailer park, staying in a hospital feels something like staying at one of those fine resorts I read about in one of those magazines Jeannie Bell had down in her parlor shop in town. Bartlett breaks me away from my reverie and whispered loudly again, “Lie back down and pretend that you’re asleep! If Daddy sees you, he’ll up and come on in here and whoop us both. Do it now!”
But I don’t listen to Bartlett. My body feels possessed by someone bigger and braver than me. Instead, I continue to rock myself gently back and forth, trying to will away the feuding coming from the other room. Daddy is cursing something fierce, and then I hear him push a chair out of his way as he crosses over to Mama where I can’t see them anymore. I knew better, and despite all of Bartlett’s warnings, I got up and tip-toed myself across the floor to the door and stepped quietly over to the other side of it to peer through the crack to see where my Mama and Daddy are standing on the other side of the kitchen. Daddy’s already got her pressed right up against the wall, his arm pinned across her throat and he is yelling directly into her face. He’s so mad, I can see little droplets of spittle flying into the air as he screams at her. And then, before I can digest what I am seeing, I watch in outright horror as Daddy leans over and picks up one of those fallen chairs and busts it right across my Mama’s head. She falters and falls hard to the ground, moaning in anguish, her body is now a lifeless heap strewn clear across the floor in a pink, cotton-candy-colored, terry-cloth robe. With a grumble underneath his breath, my Daddy steps over her body, like she’s nothing more than the day’s trash, and stumbles into their bedroom. I watch him hoist his fully-clothed body onto that old bed, the sheer weight of him causes those box springs to creak and whine again, and almost immediately, the sound of his snoring breaks the dead quiet silence of daybreak. The morning light is already filtering in through the windows, casting morning sun on my poor mother, splayed out on the floor in her pink robe.
Mama was lying perfectly still on the floor, and I was almost certain she was dead. A thin, red trickle of blood oozed from a wide, deep gash on her forehead. I was crying, but my sobs were coming from some subterranean part of myself. Even if I wanted to, I could not project any noise; I had learned so early on in life to stifle my emotions and to filter my own pain. My stomach was heaving in and out while a steady train of new tears rolled down my face. It took every ounce of my courage to walk over to Mama to see if she was breathing or dead. Just as I crossed over the kitchen and came to her side, my mother looked up at me, surprised to see me and immediately placed her right index finger next to her lips and mouthed the word “Shhhhh!” I leaned over her and gave her my hand, which she gratefully took, and I helped her up off the cold, hard linoleum tiles. Without saying a word, she led me back to my room where Bartlett stood crying at the door, holding Graham in her arms; he was almost too big for her carry. He was buried deep in her bosom and I knew Bartlett hadn’t let him see anything that went on in the kitchen. “Go on back in there now, you three. Ain’t nothin’ more to see out here tonight,” Mama said as she motioned us back into our bedroom. “I’m ok,” she said, “It’s just nothin’ but a little bump on the head. Y’all go back to sleep, and stay good and quiet in here, you hear me?” she whispered. Mama led me back into our room, where she tucked me into bed, checked on Graham who rolled over immediately and went back to sleep, and then looked thankfully towards Bartlett. Then with some degree of dignity, she straightened her back and walked out of our room and back into the kitchen.
The door to our room was left cracked open again and I watched as she lit herself a cigarette, inhaling the smoke deeply into her lungs where she savored it a moment until she finally exhaled, and then she sat down at the dinette table, drew her feet up onto the chair and rested her head on her knees, her body trembling from head-to-toe as she silently watered her lap with her tears. I wanted to go to her again, but I knew if I did, she would retaliate on me just to prove she was still strong and in charge, like she had done so many times before after a beating from Daddy, so I just laid there and saw her arms heave up and down as she cried, watching as the early morning light cleansed and clarified the kitchen, hoping for a new and brighter day.
I was so grateful for the opportunity to give the keynote address at the Publishing Perspectives Conference, YA: What's Next, held at the hospitable Scholastic auditorium in New York City this past Wednesday.
Today the fine folks at Publishing Perspectives share the text in full, along with the illustrations by William R. Sulit. These illustrations were modeled with 3D software, all with the exception of the beautiful face and hands, which belong to my niece (daughter of my famous I Triple E brother), Miranda.
In her keynote address from the YA: What’s Next? publishing conference, author Beth Kephart makes an impassioned case for YA books that are heartfelt, authentic and empowering.......
I had the pleasure to spend time with Australian author, Jacqueline Harvey. She’s an amazing literary talent (and storyteller!) who wrote the ALICE MIRANDA series [Random House]. New York City is just one Jacquie’s stops on her speaking engagements at schools across the country. And based on what I saw at my school, everyone LOVES Alice Miranda, as she appeals to both boys and girls of all cultures.
Oh…on Saturday, Jacquie has agreed to an interview to tell me ALL about her travels.
The number of Americans who have a tablet or e-reader (jumped significantly between December 2011 and January 2012, thanks to robust holiday sales, according to Pew Research. In fact, among Millennial adults, tablet ownership — at 24%... Read the rest of this post
Returning to the beach cottage—a cottage named Scallop—where she has always celebrated her birthday is a special occasion for Alice Rice.
Who will see the first dolphin this time? The first pelican? What will have changed? Stayed the same? And will this be the year she finally finds a junonia shell?
Alice's friends are all returning, too. And she's certain her parents have the best party planned for her. Alice can't wait. If Alice is lucky, everything will be absolutely perfect. Will Alice be lucky?
As I write this, I am watching "The Matrix" on AMC. This is my absolute favorite movie of all time. They just "woke" Neo from the dreamworld of the Matrix, and he's about to find out what the real world actually is. This movie is visually stunning in so many ways. I've used it to teach about viewing movies with a critical eye. It's just a delight for a film junkie like me to watch, even if this is the fiftieth time I've seen it (at least). In addition to its visual appeal, "The Matrix" is a wonderful story about being the master of your own destiny, fate versus free will, and the dangerous reach of technology. It is wholly original.
Which brings me to Veronica Roth's Divergent, a dystopian novel set in a futuristic Chicago. What does Divergent have to do with "The Matrix?" Nothing, and that's my point. Where "The Matrix" is a highly inventive, groundbreaking movie, Divergent is a remix of The Hunger Games trilogy with a bit of The Giver thrown in for good measure.
As much as her name resembles that of a character out of The Crucible, Beatrice Prior lives not in pre-Revolutionary Massachusetts, but in post-apocalyptic Chicago. The city (The country? The world? Roth never reveals what lies beyond Lake Shore Drive) has been divided into five factions, each inhabited by people who embody that faction's virtue: Amity, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, and Abnegation (SAT word alert! Couldn't Roth have just used Selfless?). At age 16, kids choose the faction in which they will spend the rest of their lives. Generally, that means staying in the faction you're born into. But not for Beatrice. Never feeling like she wholly belongs in the selfless realm of Abnegation, Beatrice chooses Dauntless. She doesn't know if she's right for Dauntless either, but at least she won't be bored.
As she goes through the miserable, tortuous, often gratuitous initiation process in Dauntless, "Tris" makes a few friends and a few enemies, falls for her initiation trainer (whose name is Four, by the way, which tripped me up occassionally because it wasn't always immediately obvious whether "Four" was referring to the number or the person), leaps from the roof of a skyscraper more than once, and saves her city (world?) from the evil Erudites. Along the way, Tris's narrative treats us to buckets of blood-soaked violence and the usual teenage sexual longing.
So? You're thinking that Divergent doesn't sound too much like The Hunger Games, except for the choosing ceremony, the training, the smarter-and-braver-than-she-thinks-she-is heroine, and the civil war. What's my beef with this book exactly? I don't think Veronica Roth gives us a new and interesting heroine here, at least not yet. Tris is Katniss with tattoos. The cadence of her speech, her temperament, her gritty vulnerability- they all mimic Katniss, leaving Tris without an original voice. My hope is that as the trilogy develops, Tris will find her own authentic voice. I also hope that Roth develops some of the other characters into rounder, fuller
Rich Wallace is the author of many award-winning books for children and teenagers, including Wrestling Sturbridge, Sports Camp, Perpetual Check, and the “Kickers” and “Winning Season” series. He lives with his wife, novelist Sandra Neil Wallace, in Keene, NH. A note from Rich: ”Bloggers might like to know that, like Brody in War & Watermelon, I was 12 years old in 1969 and living in suburban New Jersey, just becoming aware of the war and the music and the other world-changing events of that summer. I also had an older brother who was eligible for the draft, which caused considerable concern in our household and informed the events of this novel.” Learn more about Rich and his books on his website, www.richwallacebooks.com.
About the book:
It’s the summer of 1969. We’ve just landed on the moon, the Vietnam War is heating up, the Mets are beginning their famous World Series run, and Woodstock is rocking upstate New York. Down in New Jersey, twelve-year-old Brody is mostly concerned with the top ten hits on the radio and how much playing time he’ll get on the football team. But when he goes along for the ride to Woodstock with his older brother and sees the mass of humanity there, he starts to wake up to the world around him-a world that could take away the brother he loves.
My take on the book:
I was really intrigued by the description of this book when I was offered an opportunity to read and review it.
I wasn’t disappointed either. War and Watermelon is a quick read and I read it over the course of a day and found it hard to put down.
Although War and Watermelon is recommended for ages 9-12 years, I thought it was definitely more of a young adult novel. There are some pretty heavy duty issues addressed in this novel, mainly focused around whether Brody’s older brother Ryan will enroll in college before he gets drafted to go to war in Vietnam. I didn’t have an issue personally with any of the subject matter in the book (the “activities” at Woodstock i.e. drinking beer, smoking pot and language). I just think it’s a book more suited for young adult readers ages 12 and above.
All in all, this book makes an excellent summer read. I think librarians and teachers would be interested in adding this to their classrooms as well. Wallace does an excellent job of bringing the political turmoil of the late 60s to life for readers, even if it is through the eyes of a 12-year-old boy. Don’t worry though, the book isn’t just centered around the topic of the Vietnam War. There’s a few laughs in here, as well as some football (Brody has made the local team as a running back/linebacker). I’d have no problem recommending this book to a male teen reader in your life.
We got the cover! This week, Kelly Milner Halls sent the cover to all of us whose stories are in this anthology. Pretty cute, huh? It contains some pretty heavy subject matter, I'll tell you that much. The cover may somewhat imply the weight of the stories within...
I'm honored to be in the company of the authors in this book. I'm excited that it's actually in the works and will be in bookstores in January. My story is called "Mars at Night," and the main character is an Iowa farm girl. Go figure. The catch, however, is that she's in love with the only Muslim in her high school. And her beloved pig farm is in danger...
Closer to home, and closer to the moment, TOMORROW, I'm signing Chasing AllieCat in Davenport, Iowa, at the big Barnes and Noble
Absolutely everyone has noticed the rash of dystopian YA novels kicking around the bookstore these days. I was recently in the wonderland that is Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, and their YA room had a great "I'm Dystopian!" display. Author Philip Reeve wrote about the phenomenon in this month's School Library Journal. And you can't escape the promotions for the upcoming movie version of The Hunger Games. I'm guilty of being quietly obsessed with the genre ever since I started teaching Lois Lowry's classic The Giver twenty or so years ago.
Well, in the past few years, I've read: The Hunger Games series, The Maze Runner series, the Chaos Walking series, the Gone series, the Uglies series, Incarceron, Divergent, Matched, Delerium, Enclave, Shipbreaker, The Roar, etc., etc., etc. Lots and lots of 'em. Some of them are great (Shipbreaker, Delerium, Chaos Walking series); some are very good (Maze Runner, Uglies, Gone, Incarceron). All of them are addictively readable. For some reason I cannot fathom, we are fascinated with our own inevitable, horrific future. What we know for sure: Earth will suffer many cataclysmic disasters which will (probably) be our fault; the new government of what is left of the U.S. will be oppressive and totalitarian; the poor will be really poor and the rich will be really rich. And one last thing: Some plucky teenager with mad fighting and survival skills will soon see it all for what it is and will fight back.
So what is different about Marie Lu's Legend, which will be published later this year and has already been optioned for the screen? Truthfully, not much. When I received the galley of Legend and read the back cover, I actually groaned. Aloud, not inwardly. My obsession was in danger of spilling over into compulsion: Yet another dystopian novel I must read. No, really, I just can't do it again. Please make it stop!
Still, I cracked Legend open and began. Original it ain't, but, I gotta tell you, I liked it. I liked it a lot. Despite being able to predict almost everything that was going to happen, I couldn't put Legend down. And if it's done right, it could make an awesome film. At the very least, it would be a great video game.
June is a war-ready prodigy in the future Republic of America, a perfect soldier-to-be, who grew up in the golden light of Los Angeles's richest district. Day is a prodigy of another kind. He is from one of the city's poorest districts, and he's also the country's most wanted terrorist/criminal. June and Day could not have come from more contrasting origins, but their worlds are about to collide in a big way.
When Day's family is quarantined because of a breakout of the newest strain of plague to run through the L.A. slum areas, he needs to steal some plague cure quick. June's brother Matias, who seems to be the ultimate Republic soldier, is murdered at the hospital on the night that Day tries to swipe a few vials of the cure. Now, Day is the number-one suspect in the crime, and June is out to exact her revenge.
Soon, however, June and Day cross paths in a most unlikely way. An uneasy alliance, even a touch of romance develops, and June and Day start to uncover some horrifying trut
1.What inspired you to write fiction? I taught 4th and 5th grades for several years. I'd read what I saw my kids reading- Harry Potter, Fablehaven, Leven Thumps, Goosebumps, Roald Dahl, etc. I think reading and re-reading those books reignited my imaginative spark that'd gone during college :) I imagined how cool it would be if I could influence reluctant readers, especially boys, to pick up a book in place of the game controller. I decided to write a fiction book that I would've enjoyed as a fifth grader and something I hoped kids would enjoy today as well.
Happy Labor Day everyone. Many of us might have a day off, but there's nothing that says you can't still make it a good writing day.
I came across this great article in the Deseret News not to long ago, and I'd like to share a snippet from it with all of you. It concerns the difference between depicting Immorality in the media vs. depicting Amorality. It was written by Linda and Richard Eyre and though it is specifically talking about movies, I think what they says applies to literature as well.
Here is the problem: We are failing to distinguish betweensomething that depicts immorality and something that depicts amorality.Immorality means the breaking or violation of moral codes, of religiouscommandments and often of basic decency. Immorality, where it is accuratelyportrayed, complete with consequences, is a good literary device and anessential part of most stories. Scripture is filled with accurate,consequence-included depictions of immorality.
Amorality is something very different. It is theignoring of moral questions altogether. It is the complete disregard and thefailure to even acknowledge the question of right and wrong. It portrays thingsas "normal" even when they are not, and it ignores consequences orpretends they do not exist.
Whether dealing with issues of honesty, sexualmorality or character in general, attempts to portray real mistakes orcharacter flaws or any kind of indiscretion or bad judgment or moral violationaccurately and honestly can be great elements of movies or of any form ofstorytelling, particularly when those portrayals are done with discretion andtaste.
Scott Westerfeld is going to have to start writing another gargantuan book series pretty soon. I just finished Goliath, the third book in theLeviathanseries, and I am going to go into Westerfeld withdrawal by November. Also, between this series and Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, I've become a tad crazy for the steampunk stuff. Someone pointed out to me that the Leviathan books are not technically steampunk, as the engines described in the book don't run on steam. I don't care. So, don't tell me again that I'm mislabeling the series. At Powell's Books, they put Behemoth on the shelf in their steampunk display, so hah!
Goliath begins right where Behemoth left off: World War I rages on across Europe and Asia. It's Clankers vs. Darwinists in this revisionist version of the Great War. Aleksander, the heir to the Austrian throne, has just helped lead a revolution in Turkey and is back on the British airship Leviathan with his best pal, Dylan Sharp. By now, Dylan's secret- that he is, in fact, Deryn Sharp, a girl in disguise- is no longer quite so secret. People seem to be finding out or figuring it out left and right. But as long as the crew of the Leviathan doesn't know, Deryn is fairly certain she can stay on and continue to fly, which has always been her dream. It's when Alek finds out she's not who she says she is and worse, that she's in love with him, that things get a bit wonky.
In the meantime, the Leviathan is on a mission to Siberia to rescue the brilliant scientist Nicolas Tesla, who claims to have built a weapon so powerful that merely showing it to the world will stop the war. Anxious for peace, Alek falls in beside Mr. Tesla, against the better judgement of his advisors and friends. Alek feels that ending this war is his destiny, his great legacy, and no one can talk him out of going along with Tesla's plans. What Alek refuses to acknowledge is that Tesla is a bit of a madman, and his motives may not be as peaceful as Alek thinks.
As the Leviathan crisscrosses the world from Tokyo to Mexico to New York, Alek and Deryn meet a host of historical figures: Tesla, William Randolph Hearst, even Pancho Villa. How far will Tesla go with his weapon Goliath? Is he, and in turn, is Alek, willing to raze an entire city to show the weapon's power? And how can Alek, a royal heir fall for Deryn, a commoner?
Goliath is a fit ending to Westerfeld's action-packed series.The plot zooms along, as was the case with the first two books, though the characters take more time for quie
Autumn has a way of making us pensive, don't you think? Of course, it makes us aware of the passing of time. This year, it's all the more true: my son is getting married in a week, and my grandson turned one year old this past week. But I don't feel old. I just feel as if I'm gathering more information about the world inside. I can only, only hope that makes me a better writer.
I get up a little slower when I've been sitting on the floor, but otherwise, I still feel as physically capable as ever. Maybe I'm fooling myself. But then again...I had a happy realization while cycling last week. I love watching the long shadows during an evening ride in the fall. What I don't love is that dark comes so quickly. Twice this year, I've squeaked home on my bike in the throes of darkness. A couple near misses. Time to mount my light for safety--just in case.
But watching my own shadow, I snapped this self-portrait. I remember how when I started riding fifteen (!!?) years ago, the guys' long shadows were so smooth; their long shadow legs looked like smooth, fast pistons stretching out, up and down the ditches as we passed. Mine looked awkward and certainly not smooth by comparison. Last week, I watched my shadow and made this happy discovery: lo and behold, somewhere, somehow in the last decade and a half of riding, my own cadence has become smoother. My legs looked like pistons, too. I'm going to relish that realization.
Then again, there's the beauty of harvest. It's sad to me because it means soon the fields will be bare and brown-black although there's a certain beauty of bounty in that, too. It also means the long Minnesota winter is too soon upon is.
The harvest itself fills my heart so full that sometimes I think it will burst (to embrace a cliche). Riding my bike alongside tractors, golden beanfields, or a combine like the one in this picture I took last week reminds me of the richness our soil still holds (IF we take care of it). The smells and sounds wash over me with memories: walking out to Dad's combine in my Halloween costume to show him my ghostly self before we went trick-or-treating; riding rounds in the combine with him, working aloud on my Confirmation memory work; just riding, my forehead pressed against the glass window (exactly as Lainey does in Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged), watching the grain or corn wash like a wave up into the combine header. And those glorious last autumns at home, when both my brother Bill and Dad were out in the field and they trusted me to do the chores all by myself. I felt so useful. What a good thing to feel.
There was the night when I was probably sixteen when I drove the Cub Cadet into the hog lot with a cart full of 5-gallon buckets of feed, and realized I couldn't back it out without the cart twisting sideways. I was utterly stuck. What did I do? I emptied the buckets, fed the pigs, and then straightened the cart behind the little tractor by herking it around by hand so I could back out. I don't think I ever told Dad or Bill about that and here I am, publishing it for the world. I still can't back a wagon or a cart to save my neck.
But I can ride my bike down county highways, flanked on both sides by golden, browning fields of grain and corn, an
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Hello readers! I've got a double header today. First I've got a feature about a new fantasy novel called "The Key of Kilenya". Then I've got a contest for my October Blog Hop, where you can win a signed copy of "The Last Archangel". Please have a look at both parts of the post.
First a little about the plot: When two vicious wolves chase fourteen-year-old Jacob Clark down a path from our world into another, his life is forever changed. He has no idea they have been sent by the Lorkon—evil, immortal beings who are jealous of powers he doesn’t know he possesses—powers they desire to control.
The inhabitants of the new world desperately need Jacob's help in recovering a magical key that was stolen by the Lorkon and is somehow linked to him. If he helps them, his life will be at risk. But if he chooses not to help them, both our world and theirs will be in danger. The Lorkon will stop at nothing to unleash the power of the key—and Jacob's special abilities.
My take: Andrea is a debut author with a promising start. The book is highly imaginative, which is the greatest strength as a fantasy author. Her ability alone to come up with exotic-sounding names is impressive. The pacing is good and keeps the reader engaged, with plenty of surprising twists. The author did a good job of providing an interesting beginning to the story that did not drag down the pace. Andrea has set the readers up well for additional books and, I'm sure based on the first installment that the following installments will only be even better.
I have never done a Best Books list, mainly because although I absolutely love to read these types of lists, I generally have a hard time choosing ten favorites from a given year. I read so much, but for me to put a book on a BEST list, it had better be damn good. And some years, as much as I read, I don't read ten great books. Let's see if I make it to ten for 2011. My favorites, in no particular order:
Marie Lu's smart, fast-paced addition to the dystopia coterie begs for a sequel. Violent and bloody, Legend is an in-your-face commentary on how the chasm between the haves and the have-nots in our society continues to expand.
Not a YA novel, but I'm pretty sure The Magician King, the sequel to Grossman's The Magicians will show up on a lot of high school reading lists. It's Harry Potter for grown-ups, wizardry with humor and intellect. Completely unpredictable and totally original. I loved it.
Of the spate of dystopian novels from this post- Hunger Games YA literary landscape, Delirium stands out. Sure, it's set up for a sequel, but that won't interfere with your enjoyment of this story. Is a life without love a life at all? Delirium is a perfect read for those who grew up reading The Giver and now want a YA experience.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is a creepy, weird, atmospheric book. I love the harsh and hearty Welsh island setting. The odd, quirky characters remind me of a kids' version of Twin Peaks. I think the use of the old photographs is a little gimicky, and sometimes, author Ransom Rigg seems more enamored of the photos than how they actually f
Summary: After an irregular childhood and traumatic personal event, Madeline Dare accepts a post at Santangelo Academy, a boarding school for disturbed teenagers. The school is notoriously expensive and experimental and set in gorgeous grounds in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. Everyone on campus, teachers and students alike, must submit to the founder's bizarre therapeutic treatments and regimen.
Madeline responds to the demands and requirements with humor, cynicism, and good sense. While this doesn't endear her to everyone, it does make her a sympathetic and teacher and an interesting lead character.
When sudden violence erupts on campus, Madeline finds herself right in the middle of it. And as she tries to make sense of what happened and how to protect herself and her students, we get drawn into the mysteries and secrets going on in The Crazy School.
Review: The Crazy School gives us the quirky, cynical Madeline Dare and her impressions as a new teacher in the dangerous and unusual Santangelo Academy. As a crisis emerges at Santangelo Academy, the story turns into a mystery thriller as Madeline and her students try to discover the truth behind the mysterious deaths. The Crazy School is accessible, engrossing and fun.
ISBN-10: 044619820X - Paperback $13.99 Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (February 12, 2010), 352 pages. Review copy provided by the publisher.
About the Author, courtesy of the publisher: Cornelia Read knows old-school WASP culture firsthand, having been born into the tenth (and last) generation of her mother's family to live on Oyster Bay's Centre Island. She was subsequently raised near Big Sur by divorced hippie-renegade parents. Her childhood mentors included Sufis, surfers, single moms, Black Panthers, Ansel Adams, draft dodgers, striking farmworkers, and Henry Miller's toughest ping-pong rival.
At fifteen, Read returned east, attending boarding school and college on full scholarship. While in New York, she did time as a debutante at the Junior Assemblies, worming her way back into the Social Register following her expulsion when a regrettable tantrum on the part of her mother's boyfriend's wife landed them all on "Page Six" of the New York Post.
Today, her Bostonian Great-Grandmother Fabyan's Society of Mayflower Descendants membership parchment is proudly displayed at the back of Read's tiny linen closet in Berkeley, California. She continues to rebel against familial tradition by staying married to a lovely sane man who is gainfully employed. They have twin daughters, the younger of whom has severe autism. Learn more at Cornelia Read's websiteat http://www.corneliaread.com/
Would you like your own copy? Sign up for the giveaway - ending March 21, 2010!
Reading Group Guide:
1. Maddie is the only Santangelo Academy teacher who lives off campus. How does this affect her views of what is “normal”?
2. Wiesner tells Maddie she is “too whacked to maintain appropriate boundaries” and has issues with authority. Do you agree? Does anyone at Santangelo maintain “appropriate” boundaries?
3. Maddie claims she hates Mindy because she is so shallow. What does this assessment reveal about Maddie herself? How does the generally ne
My students, well, the female students, were captivated by Nicholas Sparks' novels this year. What with the movie versions of Dear John and The Last Song coming out recently, and "A Walk to Remember" and "The Notebook" out on DVD, the girls can certainly squeeze out a hanky-ful of tears right about now. As much as they love The Clique and Alphas and other such schoolgirl fluff, it's sappy romantic fluff that they crave at the end of the day. And Nicholas Sparks really delivers the romance. Well, romance and fatal diseases.
Personally, I have never read a Nicholas Sparks book. Sure, I dig the romance thing, like all of us chicks do. I cried my eyes out at "The English Patient." Of course, that was back in 1996... Oh, and I sobbed during the series finale of Lost. Does that make me a romantic or just a geek? Whatever the case, I think I can recognize a heartstrings-puller when I come across one.
And that's exactly what The Clearing is. This novel by Heather Davis covers all of the territory that Nicholas Sparks covers- the heroine with a rocky past and a chip on her shoulder, the seemingly simple yet tragically complex boy who's hiding secrets from the girl he loves, lots of mist and rain falling on lovers who just don't care how wet they're getting as long as they're together. The Clearing has all of that fluff. And a bit of substance, too.
Amy needs a fresh start for her senior year. Leaving an abusive relationship behind in Seattle, she moves to a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains to live in a run-down trailer with her great-aunt Mae. On Mae's land Amy finds a clearing shrouded in mist, and she is drawn into the mysterious haze. It is here that she meets Henry Briggs, a kind, polite young man who doesn't speak or dress or behave like any boy Amy has ever met. Amy feels safe with Henry, and as he helps her to put her past behind her, the two fall in love in the clearing.
But there is a reason Henry is so different from the other guys. On his side of the clearing, Henry and his mother and grandfather are trapped in time, stuck in an endless summer in 1944. Both Henry and Amy are reluctant to move forward: Amy, who has been hurt so terribly, cannot face her future, and Henry knows that a family tragedy awaits if they see the end of the summer. Together, Amy and Henry help one another find the courage to move on with their lives, even as the unknown future threatens their love.
The Clearing is a charming story told from alternating points of view. Both Amy and Henry are vulnerable and afraid, but they fall hard for one another. Their love grows in a sweet, old-fashioned way, and Davis creates plenty of very tender moments between them. She also understands the mind of a teenage girl, and she gives Amy a true, believable voice. There's even a little twist at the end that you won't see coming, a twist that will leave you simultaneously heartbroken and satisfied.
Is The Clearing the best book I've read recently? No. The whole construct of the story feels forced and is never fully e
I have a friend who is the leader of a church group for girls 12-18, and she asks:
I want to set up a little library for our YW. [Young Women] These are multi-cultural girls, low income, some from illegal families. I would love to get your suggestions as to good books to put in the library. Since the library will be at the church, they do need to be on the “clean” side, but the girls range from age 13-17 and I think can handle some more complicated themes.
I have a start of a list here, but would love your additions to the list. “Clean” should include nothing stronger than “darn” or the occasional “crap” or “hell,” and on-screen violence should be kept to a minimum; no sex/sexual conduct beyond kissing/holding hands (at least, not in-scene), though romance is great. That doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t handle tough subjects, though. The Maze Runner, for example, is dystopian, but still a clean read overall. Even a book that tackled rape and its aftermath, or something similarly violent, could be appropriate for a list like this depending on how it’s written.
In general, I’m an advocate for good literature over judging a book by what isn’t in it, and my friend is that kind of reader, too. But given that this is a church-associated library, the suggestions do need to be “appropriate,” if you know what I mean. Feel free to suggest titles that might not be shelved in a church library ONLY if they’re borderline (i.e., something my friend my suggest the girls look up on an individual basis if she feels they’re ready for them).
For example, The Hunger Games may not be for everyone. I love it, and would hand it to any teen I knew who didn’t have a problem with a little violence. But some teens are more sensitive than others, so it might be important in a church context to gauge just how well the reader might welcome the visuals they’d get from that book, especially when it might as easily be picked up by a 12-year-old as a 15-year-old. (Then again, given that we live in a dystopia and modern teens know it, perhaps they’d be just fine with it.) Public library, no problem. But it’s the kind of thing that a conservative church library might not be the best place for.
This is NOT a fantasy-only list. Feel free to add YA-appropriate “clean reads,” particularly but not limited to multicultural books, from any genre. I’m just biased for SFF, that’s all. It is a tough list to assemble, though, because I hate to recommend something as “clean” when I haven’t had a chance to read it myself.
The Maze Runner, James Dashner
The Sisters Grimm series, Michael Buckley *
Conrad’s Fate, Diana Wynne Jones
The Dalemark Quintet,Diana Wynne Jones
A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle and its sequels
Matched, Ally Condie (to be published in Nov. 2010)
The Princess and the Hound, Mette Ivie Harrison, and its sequels
Princess of the Midnight Ball, Jessica Day George, and its sequel Princess of Glass
Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, 2008, Nahoko Uehashi, and its sequel, Moribito II (this is technically a middle grade book, but the cool thing about it is that it can be appreciated by all ages–the main character is a 29-year-old woman who protects a young king)
Mary Elizabeth Summer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer who spends her days writing training materials for various companies and her nights racing pell-mell across the keyboard after her rampaging imagination. She writes novel-length stories with occasional forays into shorter fiction, and she writes for young adults, except for when she doesn't. She has a BA in creative writing (she BSes everything else), and she haunts bookstores for fun. Her current writing project is a young adult novel about a girl on the grift. Non-writing interests include volunteering at a horse-therapy program for autistic children and learning the fine art of parenting from her newborn daughter.
interview by Marcia Peterson
WOW: Congratulations on placing as one of the Runners Up in our Spring 2010 competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?
Mary Elizabeth: Thank you! I was very honored to be chosen from among such talented writers. Actually, I was inspired to enter the contest when I read that I could receive a critique of my entry. I didn't expect to actually place in the contest. I was happily surprised when I did, but also happy to get a professional opinion about the story.
WOW:Glad your expectations were exceeded!Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, "Of Crepes and Constancy?"
Mary Elizabeth: It's kind of a funny story. My writing group decided to try a variation of the exquisite corpse exercise in which each of us put two sentences into a hat and then draw two sentences out. One sentence was to be used as the first sentence of a story, and the second sentence was meant to be the last sentence of the story. The first sentence I drew was "How many times can you burn a crepe before it really does mean something?" In my original version of the story, I managed to end it with the second sentence, but in the revision process, I had to cut it, because it didn't quite work. As for the substance of the piece, at the time I wrote it, I was noticing a pattern in the relationships of people around me--a certain sort of insincerity that led to mind games and dissatisfaction. I had actually meant it to be a comical story, but it didn't turn out that way. Funny how characters sometimes take a story and run in completely the opposite direction with it.
WOW: For writers who may be interested in what you do for a living, could you describe what it’s like writing training materials for various companies?
Mary Elizabeth: It can be challenging at times. I have to take a bunch of information about something I know absolutely nothing about and shape it in a way that makes sense to someone else who knows nothing about it so that they learn. It involves a lot of adult learning theory and subject matter experts and ridiculous budget constraints and unrealistic turn-around times and blah blah blah corporate blah. It is a pretty sweet job, though. I essentially get to write for a living, which is the golden apple, right?
WOW: It sounds like a demanding but interesting job. How do you switch gears to write fiction at
It's hard to top yesterday's blog post. I mean, we were talking about a great cause--Breast Cancer Awareness Month--and giving away chocolate! If you missed it, check out the post and enter to win here.
So, I decided to post about a new author I just discovered--she's quite a talent and popular in the YA scene and how it made me feel to discover her when everyone else seemed to already know her. And what does that mean about me as a writer and reader?
First, I'll tell you a little about the author. Her name is Heather Brewer, and I saw her speak at a great reading festival St. Louis holds each year, THE BIG READ. Brewer is from the St. Louis area, and she drew my attention at this event because she was 1. a YA author (that's my aspiration) 2. Dressed so cool with a pink streak in her hair 3. Writes about vampires. I drug my husband over to her tent, and we sat down. Then she started talking about her series, The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, and these teenage fans in the audience were noticeably excited. She was a great speaker--enthusiastic and real and genuine. You could tell how much she cared about her characters, and how much those teenagers did, too. She went on to talk about the five books she had already completed in the first series (from Eighth Grade Bitesto Twelfth Grade Kills) and how she is currently writing a spin-off series. I kept thinking: I am an aspiring YA novelist. I have a children's/teen's book blog, and I have never heard of this author and Vlad Tod. Where have I been? How am I so out of touch? I immediately bought book one of the series, she signed it for me, and I gushed on and on about how much I enjoyed her talk and couldn't wait to read the series.
The first book is great--it will appeal to boys and girls (tween to teen) as well as their parents. I am almost finished with it and have already checked out Ninth Grade Slays from the library. I still am having trouble getting over the fact that this author wrote five books--which they sell in major bookstores and YA bloggers write about, and I had no idea. Where's my market research? Where's my reader instinct?
So, I posed this question to our Facebook Fans: how do you feel when you discover a new author? I mean, I feel excited to have discovered Heather Brewer, but I also feel so out of touch. If she just had one book, like debut novelist Jay Asher, whom I had already read, I wouldn't feel so well. . .slow. Here's what some of our Facebook fans had to say about new authors they've found:
Holli Moncrieff: "I was so happy to discover Elizabeth Berg. A co-worker lent me her book "Talk Before Sleep", about Berg's experiences helping her friend die with dignity, and it was such a beautiful, heart-wrenching book. I've worked my way through all of ...her novels, and it always seems like a new one has just been released. . .Both my moth
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After a generous offering of chocolate-covered cherries from Diaz, the authors began by introducing themselves and their books, then dove into answering audience questions. First up: for what age are your books appropriate?
The authors all agreed that their books are for teen audiences, though Cronn-Mills described her novel as “edgy” (for sexual frankness and language), and therefore felt it was more for older teens, 14/16 and up. Amusingly, Lo mentioned that she’d originally written Ash as a young woman out of her teens, but that her editor suggested she lower her age to hit the YA audience, and while Ash is recommended in the U.S .for ages 12 and up, it was published in the U.K. for ages 8-12. Several authors pointed out that sexual encounters tend to up the recommended age level – for instance, Diaz’s book is often labeled as 14 and up, and contains two sexual encounters, one between a heterosexual couple and another between a same-sex couple.
Also regarding age-appropriateness: Why write for a teen audience? Also, as YA authors, do you face any legal issues/constraints from your publishers or editors for writing of the sexual experiences of teens under eighteen?
The answers to “why write for this age-level” varied: it’s simply a fun age to write (Diaz); the characters are based on people from the author’s teen experience and so had to be teenagers (Cronn-Mills); and technical reasons, such as a character needing to drive, and so had to be at least sixteen (Frazer). On the subject of legal issues, all the authors agreed that while none of them had been told to tone down scenes or to take anything out, if publishers or editors were squeamish, it was probably less about the actual content and more about heading off parent complaints and challenges. Lo pointed out that while it may seem that book challenges are good in that they get a book publicity and make it attractively ‘taboo,’ it’s actually a bad thing, as the controversy might lead to librarians/teachers choosing not to purchase a title in order to avoid the possibility of a challenge.
When asked for their personal favorite LGBTQ books or authors, we in the audience found ourselves nodding along and/or scribbling furiously to keep
MTV unveils (a slate of new scripted and unscripted shows at its upfront today, announcing a new "Teen Wolf" series and confirming rumors that "Beavis and Butthead" will return to the channel. Viacom and Hulu announced a partnership that will bring... Read the rest of this post