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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: edgy YA, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 6 of 6
1. Guest Post: Cyndy Etler on Joining the Sorority

By Cyndy Etler
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I’m not a fangirl. I don’t know celebrity names. I don’t ask the hairdresser to make me look Kardashian. Also I don’t diet, buy $30 lip gloss, or wear Lululemon to the organic grocery store.

I read; I write. That’s what I do; that’s what I think about. Reading and writing.

In today’s YouTube-tutorial, boutique-fitness-studio, must-have eyebrow-mascara culture, being a reader/writer can make a girl feel almost…like she’s not that much of a girl, you know? Funny, then, that I’m being embraced by a sorority.

Rush began 30 years ago, in elementary school. With Blubber. Poor girl, going to school knowing the others were laughing at her! God, could I relate. In our beach games, my sister was Bo Derek. I was Sea Cow.

And then Deenie—are you kidding me? She had to wear a brace to school and have everyone stare, same way everyone stared at me, with my step-brother in his clacking leg brace? Judy Blume was my first real sister, tapping my soul with her magic pen, letting me know that I wasn’t the only one.

Next it was Sweet Valley High, that literary candy that spilled from the pen of Francine Pascal. Peeling back the macaroon-colored cover of a SVH book, I was a new girl. A thin, blond, convertible-driving California girl. Mini-skirts and pom-poms! SVH was my first, my best drug. Francine Pascal was sister #2.

Then I found salvation: Alice Walker. Maya Angelou. Toni Morrison. Women writing characters with the honesty, humor, and heart that was missing from my life. Their worlds were my nirvana. In my reader’s mind, at least, I had a place where everything made sense. And I had people: my three newest sisters, and their heavenly cast of characters.

When I got older it was Dangerous Minds. First the movie, showing me my future: a take-no-prisoners high school teacher finding kin in her alternative-class students. Which led me to the books. And the author, the teacher, the revolutionary: LouAnne Johnson.

Then I was on to Crank: part fiction, part poetry, part muscle-car, all real. Like its author, Ellen Hopkins: badass, trailblazer, and modern day Anat, goddess of love and war.

LouAnne and Ellen were the sisters who gave me the key. They invited me into the House of YA Lady Lit; they showed me my seat at the table. Looking around and pinching myself, I noticed I’d started to glow. Like, from the inside.

And it dawned on me: it wasn’t the blubber. It wasn’t the skin color. It wasn’t the pom-poms, or the street cred, or the eyebrow mascara. It was—it is—the words.

It’s the words and the beating heart behind them.

As I settle into my purple satin seat cushion here in the House of YALL, trading books and tweets with award-winning authors, I am stunned and elated and almost unbearably grateful.

To Ellen Hopkins. To LouAnne Johnson. To Jenni Fagan and Cynthia Leitich Smith and Marieke Nijcamp.

To all of my sisters in heart and word, as we work to save kids’ souls, one book at a time.

Cynsational Notes

Cyndy Etler is the author of The Dead Inside (Sourcebooks Fire, April 2017), a YA memoir about the sixteen months she spent, as a teen, in a “tough love” facility described by the ACLU as “a concentration camp for throwaway teens.”

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2. Book Trailer: Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Check out the book trailer for Three Truths and a Lie by Brent Hartinger (Simon Pulse, 2016). From the promotional copy:

A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie go horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definition of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeve.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.


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3. Guest Post: David Lubar on The Name of the Prose

Tor, 2016
By David Lubar
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I love it when people ask the title of my new book. I get to say, “Character, Driven.”

Then, if they nod knowingly, I add, “Character, comma, Driven.”

If they smile at that, I add, “It’s a plot-driven novel.”

I feel it’s a clever title. But a title has to be more than clever. It also has to be a good. It has a marketing job to do.

With 35 books or so to my credit, and close to 300 published short stories, I’ve created a lot of titles. Some were good. Some weren’t.

My first novel, published back in 1999, was about kids with special powers. The working title was "Psi School." I wanted something better.

Back then, I often watched "Double Dare" on Nickelodeon with my daughter. At the end of the show, host Mark Summers would ask if anyone in the audience had a hidden talent.


One day, as he said that, I realized Hidden Talents was a perfect title for my novel. This was back in the days when we didn’t instantly and constantly search the Internet for information.

Starscape, 2003
Starscape, 2004
It wasn’t until the book came out that I searched for it in online stores and discovered there was a Jayne Ann Krentz novel by the same name.

That’s when I learned my first rule: Try to make the title unique.

Even having a similar title can be a problem. I was aware that Wendelin von Draanen had written Flipped (Knopf, 2001) before I called a novel of mine Flip. (I couldn’t resist. The title fit the story so well.) I didn’t think it would be a problem.

I also didn’t think we’d ever be on the same panel at a conference. To this day, I still run into people who confuse the two books.

I didn’t have that problem with Dunk, which was about a boy who wants to work as a clown in a dunk tank. I checked. There wasn’t a previous book with that title. But the title presented another problem. I’ve met people who never picked up the book because they thought it was about basketball.

I guess there might have been people who picked it up for that very reason. Inevitably, some of them would be disappointed. My second rule: Avoid confusing potential readers.

Graphia, 2004
Dutton, 2005
A title has to work with a broad population. My novel, "Flux Sucks," was renamed at the last minute, out of fear that “sucks” might keep it off the shelves in some communities. The hastily created new title seems to be a good one. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie works well, I believe, because it is intriguing, and it can have multiple meanings.

I think the same holds true for Character, Driven. My main character, Cliff, is both driven to succeed in life and love, and driven by his friends because he lacks a car of his own.

The title also hints at the metafictional nature of the narrative.

I think my most successful title, in terms of marketability, caused a different sort of problem for me. The story collection, In the Land of the Lawn Weenies and Other Warped and Creepy Tales (Starscape, 2003)(excerpt), inspired such brilliant cover art from illustrator Bill Mayer that I decided the next collection also needed a Weenie title story. It was a smart move.

There are now seven Weenies collections, with an eighth coming in September. But it is a mixed blessing. Some people don’t take the books seriously, for that very reason. I’ve seen them referred to as “garbage books” by one blogger, who I suspect never looked beyond the cover, and a friend told of hearing a parent tell a child who’d snatched up a copy at a book fair to “pick a real book.”

Happily, the millions of copies in print remind me that, all in all, it was a good decision to run with the Weenies. (Not to mention the endless jokes I get to make when authors gather.)

Darby Creek, 2006
I have a chapter book about a boy who is cursed to speak in puns. The title, Punished!, actually came to me first, inspiring the book. (I also wrote a sequel, Numbed!, where the same characters lose their math skills. That, too, began with the title.)

I never tire of saying to kids who select that book at a school signing, “I’m glad you got Punished!”

I feel it’s an excellent title. But I made a mistake when I went for emphasis. Some online book sellers aren’t set up to search for an exclamation point. So neither Punished! nor Punished will produce that book.

If you search for the keywords Punished and Lubar, you’ll find the book, and some alarming bondage photos (just kidding), but the truth is that people are often better at remembering titles than authors. So a title should be both memorable and searchable.

Speaking of which, I foolishly called an ebook of mine, built from stories that were deemed too problematic for the Weenies collections, Zero Tolerance Meets the Alien Death Ray and Other (Mostly) Inappropriate Stories. I suspect that many of the kids who heard me talk about it forgot the title by the time they got home. If not sooner.

I hope I chose wisely this time. As a title, Character, Driven is memorable (I hope), searchable (I tested the comma, and found no problems), and confusing only in a fun and ironic sort of way.

Is it a good title? I think so. But that’s really a question for the marketplace to decide. And that would be you. So let me know what you think. Or just smile and nod knowingly if we ever cross paths.

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4. Exciting news! STAINED to be published by Harcourt in 2013

I’m so excited!! Harcourt will publish my next edgy YA novel (tentatively titled STAINED) in 2013. In STAINED, Sarah, a teen with body image issues and a port wine stain, gets abducted and must find a way to rescue herself.

Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on my abuse and trauma experience to write STAINED. I make all my main characters emotionally strong, and Sarah is no exception. She fights back.

I have the contract in my hands–it is SO cool to have that. And I’ve already been talking with Karen Grove, my wonderful editor at Harcourt. I love her insight, suggestions, and feedback; she’s helped me make STAINED an even stronger, more powerful book. I’m so excited about it, and can’t wait until STAINED is out and I can share it with you! (beaming and beaming)

7 Comments on Exciting news! STAINED to be published by Harcourt in 2013, last added: 2/4/2012
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5. If you missed Maureen Johnson on NPR today with Meghan Cox Gurdon…

you can still
listen in through the podcast! I LOVED how articulate, clear, strong, and intelligent YA author Maureen Johnson was!

I also called in (since Gurdon slammed Scars in her WSJ essay). I was glad to be able to say a short bit–and so grateful, as always, for all the lovely YAlit people’s support through Twitter! It really makes a huge difference.

I found it…hard…to have Meghan Cox Gurdon tell me that she pities me. Pity feels…far away from compassion, and can be condescending. I think it usually makes the person pitied feel awful. And I found it hard that again, Meghan thinks that most teens can’t relate to dark books because it’s not their experience (she thinks). I SO wish I’d been able to get in that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 8 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. That alone shows how many teens need “dark” fiction, and that’s just one issue. Never mind teens who haven’t been through such things but have friends who have.

But Maureen Johnson was so articulate and smart (I knew she would be), and so was the teen reader! And the Twitter support–you all are wonderful!

Check out the podcast if you want to hear it for yourself.
http://www.whyy.org/podcast/070611_110630.mp3

4 Comments on If you missed Maureen Johnson on NPR today with Meghan Cox Gurdon…, last added: 7/7/2011
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6. Random thoughts about edgy YA, and what age is the right age to start reading it

There's been a lot of controversy over what YA is and what it isn't, and what age it *should* be for, and if edgy YA books are too dark or somehow negatively influential to teens (as if teens were stupid). And I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

As a parent of two teenagers, here are some simple thoughts about kids and reading, based on my experiences as a parent:

Both of my kids, when faced with something in a book that they were uncomfortable with, put the book down. Kids do this instinctively. They don't feel a need to keep reading something that is too mature, too graphic, to sexual, too anything. I don't understand why so many people think that kids have no built in monitors for themselves. Have you ever heard a kid say "I was really uncomfortable with the coarse language in that book, so I kept reading it." Of course not. Kids are smart, and their time is precious. They're not going to waste time plugging through something that makes them feel weird.

There comes a time in a parent's life where there is a moment of revelation--something changing in their kids. I remember when it happened for my son (now 17). It was the summer he was 13. And we were talking about something very grown up, and suddenly I looked at him and saw him with new eyes. The gradual changes he'd been making that year in his maturity level were suddenly so obvious. He had become a young adult, and I hadn't noticed until that moment.

A young adult is exactly that - an adult who is young. And we were conversing like adults, about topics adults and young adults talk about. I could feel it in him -- he was ready to read anything, to explore beyond his current repertoire of Paolini and Riordan. And that summer, he did. He read Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, and Ellen Hopkins' CRANK, and I let him read WAKE, by me, which was not quite published at that time, and so many more books that would help grow him up and make him think about choices and consequences. How exciting! We talked about things -- drugs and girls and substance abuse and welfare and sex, and I could almost see his brain growing. I could see him understanding the books and learning from these characters' mistakes, and from their successes. Today I see him making such amazing, great choices in his own life. Coincidence?

For my daughter (now 14), it happened when she was almost 12, in a very different way. One day she said, "Mom, all my friends have read WAKE. Why won't you let me read it?!" It was funny, but I also had to ask myself that same question - Why? I explained my concerns to her about some of the topics that are addressed in WAKE. And I said, how do you feel about reading stuff like that? She gave me the raised eyebrow. "I know what all of those things are, Mom. If I don't like it, I'll put it down."

And again I looked at a child of mine, who had matured so subtly that from day to day, it wasn't noticeable, but with fresh eyes it was so crazy obvious. She had become a young adult. I agreed (of course she would put it down! She'd done it countless times before with other books), and I handed it off, saying "Let's talk about it after." She was delighted. And after, we talked about it. And she got it. My new little adult learned great lessons from Janie. **spoiler alert** When she finished the trilogy, she said, "I'm really glad Janie decided not to drink anymore." I was surprised she'd picked up on that. It's very subtle in GONE, the moment that Janie makes that decision, and it's a moment that I never expected readers to ask me about or discuss, but I did hope they'd notice. There's no big declaration, no epic "here's the moral - don't drink!" It's just a moment, a sentence, where we see Janie make the connection between her mom, the booze, and their life -- and ma

7 Comments on Random thoughts about edgy YA, and what age is the right age to start reading it, last added: 6/26/2011
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