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Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

Remember my New Year’s Resolution to do something daring?  Well, this is me jumping in with both feet.  I’ve entered a contest, The Writer’s Voice.  The prize is working with a fantastic mentor and getting feedback to help polish up my work.  Where is the bravery you ask?  I have to post my query and first 250 words.  For the world to see.  For you to see.  The thought brings panic.  Stupid fear.  I will now repeat my mantra: Creativity takes bravery. — Henry Matisse

Query:

For sixteen year-old Katherine Chapman, spotting the micro-expressions of darting eyes, facial tics, and rigid extremities when people lie comes as easy as finishing off a super-sized order of fries.  For fear of being labeled a circus freak or ruining friendships, she tucks that fact safely away in her journal.

Hiding her ability isn’t a problem until Kat’s house is robbed and her journal is stolen.  Pages of embarrassing moments and social suicides are nothing compared to what she’s written about the lies from her family and friends.  When an entry detailing Kat’s awkward first kiss at fifteen wallpapers the school, she survives mortification with her best friends linked on either arm.  They are blissfully unaware their pages detailing the worst nights they lied about are coming up.

Instead of waiting for more to be exposed, Kat takes on what the police chalked up to random break-ins.  She’s determined to protect her friends even if it means questioning everyone she thought she trusted.  The closer Kat gets to finding out who deceives her, the more revealing the pages become.  If she doesn’t find the journal soon, no one’s lies will be safe.  Including her own.

TRUTH BE TOLD is a 62,000-word contemporary young adult novel.

First 250:

Nothing said friendship like a well-intentioned lie told straight to the face.  Every time my best friend Shelby did it, her large upper teeth cut into her full lower lip and the corner of her right eye twitched.  Her lies balanced between infuriating innocence and exhausting disappointment.

When I was twelve, a psychiatrist told me I had to write down the lies and how they made me feel to get them out of my system.  She went into horrific detail about how if I kept my anger bottled up one day I would explode in a volcanic rage and probably kill everyone around me.  Or the frustration would slowly poison any relationship until there was nothing left except a withered corpse.  She didn’t have much bedside manner treating someone panicked about being a freak.  Thankfully, my parents ditched the shrink.   They also bought me a journal.

“Talk to him, Kat.  I think he likes you,” Shelby said.

“Chris doesn’t mind being stuck with me. That’s far from liking,” I said.

“He just needs to get to know you better.”

Shelby’s brace-covered smile glimmered in the light cast from the ten-foot tall bonfire.  Her deliberate blink waited for my expected rebuttal.  If I explained Chris showed no more interest in me than the Top 40 charts, she’d counter with I was the coolest person she knew, which really wasn’t saying much for either of us.

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The DisenchantmentsCover Me:  This cover screams romance to me.  No, not in the genre, but in the beauty of it.  I’m not usually a big fan of people on covers, but I love this chick.  It’s kinda weird since I don’t place any of the characters looking like her.  But the way she smiles in her retro rainbow shirt makes you think you want to take the trip.

Concept:  It’s graduation time and choices need to be made.  Main character Colby doesn’t think there’s any decision since his best friend Bev and he are headed to tour Europe.  This is until she drops the bomb that she’s not going, but chooses college instead.  Now they are stuck on their last tour for Bev’s not-so-good band before everyone goes their separate ways.

You mention music and I’m pretty much in.  I LOVE the fact the girl band is terrible.  People still watch them play and tell them they’re good, but Colby relays the truth.  It makes the experience vivid.  

The Peeps:  Colby’s not a bad boy, a vampire, or an angel sent down to save anyone.  He’s a regular guy who is in love with his best friend.  Right from the beginning he’s charming and there is something fantastic in the way he describes Bev.  You know she must be something wonderful to capture this much of his heart.  As you travel with them and their two friends (who are also well written) you see all of their awesomeness and flaws.  It’s a bit sad to see Colby realize Bev and he are not made to travel Europe together, but you do pick up more and more what he’s becoming instead.  I wasn’t always crazy about their journey to find out about a bird tattoo.  I thought it was going to be more and I didn’t get it.  Maybe I missed the poetry behind that point.

The Ending (spoiler alert!):  The band goes their separate ways having this one last hurrah and Colby heads out of the country.  It’s a nice ending for the way things should be.  Not overly dramatic with people making unrealistic choices.  The only one kinda out there  is Colby, but it is completely understandable because this is all he has. 

I must admit I certainly loved pieces of this book which touched on the area of my town.  One of the stops is outside Jacksonville and they even have breakfast at Rooster’s Restaurant in Medford.  Ms. LaCour must have stopped by sometime because she described the old wood paneling in detail.

This book was a good example of a well done contemporary novel.  It doesn’t seem like there are too many of them out there right now.  (Or that I have found.)  With writing like this, it should certainly pick up some following.

What I Cooked Up:  Colby is obsessed with the tulips in Denmark.  He even wants one in a tattoo.  Even though I batted around some ideas about making something to touch on the band, the “treat” really needed to be about him.

This is a tulip cookie pop.  The outside is a colored white chocolate and the inside is made with snickerdoodle cookies.  To add some dimension, the outside is piped with royal icing and yellow sprinkles for a little sparkle.  (It had a little Bev in it after all.)

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Ten years ago, I didn’t read books.  I will pause now for the gasp.  I’ve always written short stories since I was young and even completed a full length play for a college course.  (Yes, it was terrible.)  But I didn’t read very much.  Now, after three years deep in the writer’s grind, I know this is the cardinal sin.  What I didn’t know at the time was if I ever wanted to really improve in writing, I had to read.  But to read, I had to find my passion.   And that wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

In high school, I read what the curriculum jammed down my throat and I actually liked some of it, even though I wouldn’t admit it at the time.  On the side, for casual fun, I was knee dead in true crime.  Ann Rule was a sure-fire purchase for me.  When I moved to fiction it was in the area of The Red Dragon, but there wasn’t much of fiction.  I thought I liked it at the time, but it didn’t sustain.

In college, I went back to the required text and it was more hit or miss if I read it or not this time around.  That was until the day I stepped into my Adolescent Literature class.  Our first required book was The Giver by Lois Lowry.  I remember gobbling it up and then puking my excitement on anyone in earshot.  I droned on and on about it to my mother who was a high school teacher at the time.  I must have worn her down because she introduced it into the curriculum for challenged sophomores.  The next book was Yellow Raft on Blue River.  When the professor pointed out how the stories weaved together like a braid, I literally almost fell out of my chair.  (Have I mentioned I’m not very coordinated with simple motor function?)  When we moved to poetry it was Anne Sexton.  I felt like it was the first time a class finally got me.  I never missed it once.  And that was something at the time.  Go ahead, ask my mom.

Then there was the drought of nothing.  No books, no short stories, no writing.  Real life took over and I worked on finding a job, getting married, buying a house, and birthing out a few kids.  Reminds me of Rent on Trainspotting listing out all the things you should have in your life.  But something was still missing.  Then I got a new job.  At this job, people read books.  They talked about books and shared them.  I will admit, it was during the Twilight craze and I went through the series.  It wasn’t so much for the story, but for the conversation with other readers.  Their excitement was intoxicating.  This led to the Sookie Stackhouse series and the same result of meeting outside of work for a makeshift book club.

Shortly after this time, I went back to my roots and started to write again.  From there, in learning about the business of writing, I realized the strong need to have teachers.  Good ones.  This led me to pick up more books, but this time it was in my genre, Young Adult.  What I discovered (in my thirties–geez) was I loved to read.  The secret was I loved to read Young Adult.  The signs had all been there before, but I didn’t understand or was too distracted to notice.  But when I did, I found a passion.

I’ve incorporated reading into my process of writing.  When I’m involved in my WIP it takes up most of my night time.  But during any down time, like writer’s block, space between projects, or needing a little lesson, I fill it with a book.  If you would have told me that ten years ago, I would’ve called you crazy.  If you tried to take it away from me now, I’d call you dead.  Because what I’ve realized is books are a natural part of a writer’s life.  It shows us what it’s like to be great, to tell stories people want to read, and most of all it gives us an example of others who have tapped into our same passion.

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One of the best benefits from attending the Willamette Writers Conference in August was meeting Amy Isaman.  After running into each other numerous times between sessions and meals, we decided there was something behind it and introduced ourselves.  Even better, we agreed to be critique partners for each other when the time comes.  To me, this was super exciting because it was the one goal I set for myself when going to the conference.  By the third day, and after talking with a bunch of people I didn’t have a good connection with, I was getting a bit worried.  Then I met Amy.

Last week, she generously shared with me the Liebster Award.  It was a funny thing because I was reading her blog (as I always do every Monday and Thursday) when I saw she got the award.  As I was reading through the article, I was thinking how happy I was for her because it’s so cool.  Then, what a surprise when I got to her nominations and saw my little ole blog spelled out in her nomination of the Liebster Award. 

What is a Liebster Award?  Amy says:  It’s a fun way to “pay it forward” to other “newbie” bloggers out there and showcase a blog you think deserves merit and more followers.  (If you have more than 200 followers, you’re not eligible for this award.)

Of course there is no obligation to take part, but if you’d like to show some Liebster Love, here are the rules:

1.  Link back to the blogger who awarded you.

2.  Tag 3-5 blogs to receive the award.

3.  Inform them of their nomination.

4.  Display the Liebster Award image on your blog.

It may seem like some kind of blog pyramid scheme, but who cares?  (Mom, that’s just a joke.  Blogs are not trying to steal your money or get you to unknowingly sign up for Facebook.)  I love the idea of paying it forward to other blogs.  We all know it’s tough to get followers and there is HUGE appreciation for a comment here and a subscription there.  Some writers may even check their blog stats religiously throughout the day like a junkie waiting for a fix.  (I’m not mentioning any names, ahem…me.)  So the thought of sharing followers and turning people on (hee hee) to someone else’s great work is a “win/win/win.”

Happiest Mommy on the Block:  Tara does a great job of mixing parenting, crafting, and decorating.  I’ve known Tara for years and her strive for perfection makes some pretty darn awesome creations.  She has a great way of reminding you to appreciate the simple things in life and enjoying every moment with your family.

Tragic Spinster:  What can I say?  I love her.  Spinster uses hilarious wit and awesome captioning to capture the aspects of her life.  She never ceases to amaze with the hilarity she creates.  I literally LOL every time I read her blog.

Speaking of Words and Quilts:  I would have chosen Amy’s blog even if she didn’t share the award.  I love her blog.  She uses the metaphor of quilting to discuss her experience with writing.  I find it fascinating to hear the components and history of quilting while picking up on all the little details of making something beautiful. 

Most of the other blogs I know have more than 200 followers and are not eligible for this award.  Sure, they have legions of fans who regularly comment, but they don’t have this award.  For today, it’s “YAY” for the little guy.

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My favorite shirt when I was seventeen was a white tee with the Parental Advisory sticker image on the front.  At the bottom, the correct verbiage was replaced with “Explicit Fucking Lyrics.”  I loved that damn thing.  In my mind, there was an edge because the F-word was right there for everyone to see.  I was stickin’ it to the man. 

This weekend, I bought the new album by Mumford and Sons.  What drew me to the band and the purchase was their song “Little Lion Man.”  Sure the acoustic guitar is catchy and who can pass up a fast moving banjo?  But it’s the chorus that sucked me in with “But it was not your fault, but mine.  And it was your heart on the line.  I really fucked it up this time.  Didn’t I, my dear?”  The way the singer emphasizes “fucked” commands an emotional reaction.  I understand the seriousness of the situation and perk up to what happened.

Even with age, I have an affinity for the word “fuck.”  One of my current favorite song titles is “Hatefuck” by The Bravery.  Awesome.  Don’t you already have some idea of what the song will entail?  Go ahead, check it out to see if you were right.  It’s an effective adjective, a poignant verb, and the best exclamation a girl could hope for (good or bad.)  Think about it.  Doesn’t it really tell the whole story?  If it doesn’t tell the story, it certainly adds some flair, you have to admit.  My mother has the differing opinion that  it shows you have no skill to find a better word for the situation.  At times when writing, I agree.  But in my every day life, I find it’s the word I like.  The one I’m drawn to even when I have a dictionary of perfectly proper words to choose from.

Some may wonder how I could have this opinion when I am the mother of two small children.  To me, it’s just a word.  One word doesn’t get more power or meaning than any of the others.  We have a choice to use any one we want to convey any thought we want.  That’s the power in them.  I’ve realized this more with diving deeper into the world of writing.  Even the most innocent sounding words can have much bigger impacts depending on their context.  “I’m disappointed in you” or “I don’t love you anymore” or “You’re a failure.”  These are much more powerful than a simple four letter word deemed vulgar. 

I make no apologies for my draw to saying, using, loving the word “fuck.”  It doesn’t mean I don’t calm it down when I’m hanging with my “churchy” friend because I respect her.  But she also never judges when a bomb drops in her presence because she knows it’s me.  But you know you have arrived in your love for the word when a Twitter acquaintance, @tragic_spinster, whom I adore and stalk sends this message today, “I just noticed that the very first word of dialogue in my newest WIP is “Motherfucker.” I thought of you.”  

That’s fuckin’ awesome.

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Jaime Reed wrote an interesting blog about teen female protagonists.  The letter filled with stereotypes found in lead characters was like a check list of “what not to do” in writing YA fiction.  Reed discussed how they are catty, self-centered, and have one dimensional friends.  She dissects the first person’s inner monologue for being hypocritical in her judgment of gal pals and the stereotypical description of the token gay BFF.  While I nodded my head with her pointed observation and rolled my eyes at the obvious flaws of those characters, I started to question where this left my WIP.  Is the lead character I love about to be filleted “Kill Bill style” because she is just like everyone else and I didn’t even know it?

It is common for artists to feel insecure.  Anytime you create something with your heart that other people can have an opinion, you are vulnerable.  While I have discussed my growing thick skin, I haven’t had the comfort of a professional acknowledging my work to put some of those fears to rest…yet.  So of course I assume, even though Ms. Reed and I have never met, she is talking about me.  My lead has girlfriends she isn’t close with.  She struggles with boyfriends.  She can even be called “snarky” at times.  But have I created a cliché?  Isn’t this common in teenagers?  Correction, isn’t this common for all women?  I’ve had conversations with friends in their thirties with all of these traits in one interaction.  Does that make us all cliché?  Don’t we all make poor choices in relationships at certain times and isn’t that the part that makes us human?  Relatable?  Real?

We all have our pet peeves in novels.  I know of a very successful novel where I promised to throw up if I read the sentence “he was an Adonis” one more time.  I hope my work has something different to it and hasn’t fallen into this trap of “typical teen.”  I took deep thought in trying to make the character realistic with strengths and flaws.  They were built on my own successes and short comings from back then and in my adulthood.

The irony is when I was a teenager, my mother would shake her head and tell me how no matter how hard I tried, whatever mischief I created, I was a normal teenager.  “This is just what teenagers do,” she said.  I screamed she didn’t understand, told her she was outdated while I wore a homemade shirt with the words “Fuck You” written across the chest in splatter paints (oh, the 90’s.)  I look back and laugh for how cliché of a teen I actually was.

Is Ms. Reed right about authors relying too heavily on stereotypes?  Or are they writing in fact and it’s people in general who are cliché?  It’s easy to make arguments for both (depending if I spent the day standing in the line at the DMV.)  It comes down to the reader.  Maybe they want something familiar or reminiscent of their youth.  Maybe they want to be surprised, but then discount it with being unbelievable.  In the end, it’s up to the skill and experience of the author to find the delicate thin line in between.  (I hope I have.)

To make this blog funny, I’ve added a photo from my teen years.  (Please remember it’s the 90’s before you judge.)  Here I am with purple-ish hair, a Pink Floyd tee-shirt, and best of all–long john’s under my shorts.  Too bad the camera doesn’t show the Doc Martin boots on my feet.  You can see grunge was in full effect.  Go ahead…judge and laugh.  Please, laugh your ass off.

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When I’m not typing away on my computer with my latest idea I’m hoping “is the one,” I read everything about writing.  In 2010, I went through books on story structure by an agent, a successful screenwriter (although his hits weren’t blockbuster), and there is still a thick one waiting on my nightstand for when I’m at a low on how to write.  My daily stops hit all the agents’ blogs, writers’ blogs, and any other random story that comes up in the search for “Young Adult Novels.”

In the beginning of my process, I bookmarked every article thinking it would one day be a useful resource.  Now, I only mark the blogs I find funny and inspiring.  But with my book out to readers to check the storyline, my insecurity has me lurking around all the old haunts hoping I know more now than when I started this dog and pony show.  Well, knock me over with a feather when I came across a link to a Yahoo article from 2007 titled “How to Snag a Young Adult Book Agent.”  What the hell have I been doing for the last two years when the damn answer was hiding in my favorite’s folder titled “Writing”?

I revisit the article hoping to get a nugget of information to put me back on track for this next round of querying.  This will be my divining rod to find an oasis of success in this horrible desert I’ve burned the bottoms of my feet from walking a million steps.  Okay, getting a little dramatic, but you get the point, right?  This travel is a huge bitch with little relief.  Back to the article…I pull it up and find this wealth of information.  A 100 word article telling to query an agent in the Young Adult field and “Polish off that query, make that hook the best it can be, and good luck in your quest for representation.”  Really?  That’s all it takes to get a Young Adult agent?  It then lists some agents who take the genre.  Wow.  Worse yet, I bookmarked it like it was some kind of help.

I can at least say I know better now.  Writing a query is more pain than I endured in the 24 hours of labor with first child.  Better yet, it’s similar to the feeling when the epidural didn’t take and they started the C-section without drugs numbing my body.  (Too much?   Yeah, too much.)  I’m going back to the drawing board to start the query from scratch after the scathing reviews on Absolute Write.  Click here if you want to witness the horror.  And when one day when I have agent on contract, I will write an article for Yahoo on how to do it:

“Write a good book, query an agent, and make a million dollars.”

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