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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Here's a bit from The Fall. Not because I'm not working on something else...but because it's the thing I'm thinking about (obsessing? no, not me!) this week. This was a difficult scene for me because it was one of the earliest I wrote, and because I channeled, or tried to channel, my own childhood fears into it. And then I had to take myself out and make sure it was all Madeline.

I stand and pad across my room to put my hands on the heavy wooden door. I can feel the house breathing, or whatever it does. I can feel it watching. Opening the door, I position it carefully, folding the edge of the rug with my foot and using a thick book to keep the door from moving.

I take two steps back. It still feels…wrong. Closing the door is difficult. The malaise that causes horror of closed in spaces, the one the doctors call claustrophobia, has always troubled me. The door must be slightly open, but not so much? I adjust it, nudging the book with my foot. This feels better, but still, I’m on edge so it can’t be right. I put my hand back to the door. It creaks, louder than a door should when moved only a fraction of an inch. I rest my hand against the wood, too long because the feelings that seep into me are not my own. Dissatisfaction is ever the mood of the house.

It wants me to open the door. To put the books back on the bureau, to straighten the rug.

But completely open doors are as terrifying as being closed in with…whatever might find its way into my room. There are things, living and dead, creeping through these halls, and I’d rather they creep past than linger beside me while I sleep.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

How Do You Use Music to Write?

I know that music is very important to us creative types. But I feel that many of us use it in different ways. I have obtained permission for my creative writing students to listen to ipods in class, though it is mostly against school rules to have ipods, because I like music, butI find that picking music myself can cause arguments...I never pick country music, and mostly either pick atmospheric things, or crazy aggressive music. Yes, I make my classes look at Tool lyrics and consider them as poetry. But anyway, when trying to tune out the rest of the classroom and write, music seems to work for most students.
But, as a rule I don't make a soundtrack that I listen to when I write. If music is playing when I write, I usually don't hear it. I can have extremely selective hearing, especially when I'm focusing.
Anyway, I do select songs that remind me of what I'm writing.
Everything I write starts with Something I Can Never Have by Nine Inch Nails, because if you don't have longing so bad it tears you apart, what's the point of any story? Sorry, longing is just the basis of everything for me as a writer.
When I started writing The Fall, the entire soundtrack was Lateralus by Tool.
Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition leaving opportunities behind.
Feed my will to feel this moment, urging me to cross the line.
Reaching out to embrace the random.
Reaching out to embrace whatever may come.
See, I meant to just pick those lines but then I decided I had to post some more. I do love me some Tool.
I embrace my desire to,
I embrace my desire to,
Feel the rhythm, to feel connected enough to step aside & weep like a widow
To feel inspired, to fathom the power, to witness the beauty,
To bathe in the fountain,
To swing on the spiral,
To swing on the spiral,
To swing on the spiral of our divinity & still be a human.
With my feet upon the ground i move myself between the sounds & open wide to suck it in.
I feel it move across my skin.
I'm reaching up & reaching out.
I'm reaching for the random or what ever will bewilder me.
What ever will bewilder me.
& following our will & wind we may just go where no one's been.
We'll ride the spiral to the end & may just go where no one's been.
Spiral out. keep going.
Spiral out. keep going.
Spiral out. keep going.
Spiral out. keep going.
Lateralus was my prewriting planning stages soundtrack, and at that time I was focusing on the dichotomy between male and female as a focus, even though as I wrote it became less and less interesting. As I drafted my writing soundtrack was Third by Portishead. Particularly Hunter. Lyrics below
No-one said
We'd ever known each other
And new evidence is what we require
In this world

I stand on the edge of a broken sky
And I will come down; don't know why
And if I should fall, would you hold me?
Would you pass me by?
For you know I'd ask you for nothing
Just to wait for a while

So confused
My thoughts are takin' over
Unwanted, arising space me instead
Won't let go

I stand on the edge of a broken sky
And I will come down; don't know why
And if I should fall, would you hold me?
Would you pass me by?
For you know I'd ask you for nothing
Just to wait for a while

Anyway, I realize that I don't use music as completely as some other authors, I love music, but I'm very able to tune it out and pretend that it doesn't exist (lyrics not so much, certain lyrics I can never tune out). But music is something I often have to focus on to even hear.

How about you guys, how do you use music?

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nostalgia, Young Writers, Experience, and Toy Story 3

For the last six months I've been in this fragile place where I cry easily. It happened when my baby turned 5. It's not that I don't want my kids to grow up, I like toddlers better than babies, and small children better than toddlers. I don't think I'll even mind them being teens, though my daughter (I fear) is going to be a frightening teen. It's just that everything goes by so fast. Their babyhood is a blur. Their toddlerhood is a memory. I fear their childhood will be the same. Then I'll be like Andy's mom in Toy Story 3, boxing up their childhood.
I'm afraid to watch the videos of them as children, because I'm afraid I'll be more upset by what I missed than what I captured.
Warning. This post is going to make me look old and sappy, and not at all like a person who writes teen girls in first person present tense!
Okay, so back to Toy Story. I always thought of Toy Story as a sort of revamped, shiny, and hilarious version of The Velveteen Rabbit. And this last installment cinched that impression. It's a series of stories about love, and imagination, and childhood, and how quickly the childhood part goes by...
I am in a place in my life where I am perplexed and a little bit sad about where all the time has gone. College...the first years with Lee, the first years with the can I be someone who has driven a car more than half my life? A person who can look back on this much history.
I know I'm not the person I was at 20, but I don't feel that much more. I don't feel layered. How does that even feel? Like wearing the sweater vest of motherhood over my oxford shirt of adulthood?
This is the part where I get to young writers. I work with young writers all the time. I haven't been lucky enough to have any in my creative writing class who were at a point where their work felt publishable, but I've worked with several who were almost there. And yes, some of that was a lack of time refining the craft. And some students can have a lack of depth. a certain shallowness to their work. But I imagine that's the case for everyone.
There was a time in my mid-twenties when I might have felt a little bit jealous of those who published earlier than me. Now, in my mid-thirties, I'm so far past that. I'm happy that there are young authors, it just gives my students someone to look up to. How depressing would it be to be writing at 15 and think it might take you twice your life to get to a point of being publishable, you know? Young authors are an inspiration. I remember the first time I read something by Hannah Moskowitz, I think she was like 14 at the time (okay, 15? but she wrote it at 14 probably) and it was AMAZING. Anyway, young authors can obviously write. (Hannah has so many book deals now, it's insane).
So what is it we question in young authors. Maturity? Experience? Depth?
Here's the thing that's been bothering me. I don't know to what extent I've gained any of those things. Certainly I've lived more, been a few more places, talked to more people, read more books. But how much has that changed me? I don't know, I can't feel it. The changes have come incrementally.
And all of this seems to prove to me, that age has given me something. But it isn't something tangible. And wisdom is something we all fake.
I've heard certain criticism and skepticism of young writers over the years, and I question that. Writing requires practice, and revision (more so for some of us than for others). It requires reading and thinking about the writing in what you read (again, more so for some of us than others). And it requires a certain depth that may not necessarily come from the years, more the basic wisdom/perceptiveness of the writer.
All of this brings me back to Toy Story 3. When I watch it, I empathize with Andy's mom, amazed that the time has gone by so fast. I cry, seeing the pictures of Andy from Toy Story I, playing happily with the toys, when now he's past that. I cried a lot. I took my little brother to see Toy Story and Toy Story II. He starts college in the fall. Watching him graduate, it made me feel so sad for all the times when I made him stand on tippytoes so that we could get him onto a rollercoaster. If his shoes were too flat I had to spike his hair up a little. That little boy is grown up, and my Ezra will follow him rapidly. He's going to be in second grade next year, and that's practically high school...All of which is the wrong perspective for a YA writer to take, but I guess I'm more than a YA writer. I only get into my teenage voice and mode occasionally these days. But when I do, I think I do an okay job!
So, what is age? I am different, but I am still me. I've changed, but only in ways that I can change. When I write I won't know more about being a teen than a teen writer, and maybe I'll know more about writing and more about life than some writers, than some people, but I will also know less than many people, regardless of their ages.
Check in 20 years from now. Perhaps by then I will have achieved wisdom, or somemthing. (if nothing else, maybe I'll be able to spell something! oops!)

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Friday, June 25, 2010

For the Love of Vocabulary

I'm going to reveal myself as a geek right now, and admit that I LOVE words. Love them. As a teacher, I am willing to spend a small amount of time on proscribed vocab...I once observed a teacher who spent more than half her teaching time on vocabulary, and that's just...icky. Time is better spent increasing vocabulary through reading, imho.

I think I have a somewhat formidable vocabulary, but when I started writing The Fall I was overwhelmed and intimidated by a lot of things, most of which stemmed back to reworking something by Poe. Or course the vocabulary was intimidating.

The following is a vocab list of words and phrases from The Fall of The House of Usher that I wanted to use.

Clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens (this is circled- meaning I don't think I used it)
Insufferable Gloom
Vacant eye-like windows
rank sedges (not sure I used this either as there was already some confusion on what a tarn was)
white trunks of decaying trees
sinking, sickening of heart
black and lurid tarn
unruffled luster
ghastly and inappropriate splendor (this is the title for the sequel..kidding, kidding, what would it be about? but A Ghastly and Inappropriate Splendor would be an awesome title for...something)

Somewhere someplace there is a tattered internet copy of The Fall of The House of Usher that I carried around for over a year (I think it's in my desk at work) that has lots of other words and phrases highlighted. I really hope I can find that, as it seems like it almost became a part of me and my life. :)

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Thursday, June 24, 2010


Okay, so in my Wikipedia exploration of Gothic Lit, one of the big factors was atmosphere. And I have to say that Atmosphere is something I love. I'm much more attracted to "dark" movies than colorful ones. I could watch Sherlock Holmes over and over, just for the atmosphere.

True Blood is a show that definitely has atmosphere...somehow the combination of vampires and the deep south is perfect for atmosphere...though there's more to it than that.

Recently I've picked up several books that claimed to be Gothic, but as far as atmosphere went, they were really paranormal. Beautiful Creatures (again with the southern thing) had a lot of atmosphere, and what I've read so far of The Monstrumologist. It's been a long time since I read Twilight (some darn kids stole it...really from my classroom library. I guess I need some kind of surveillance system) the idea of being in Forks Washington where it's gloomy and rainy does seem to be the perfect setting for some great atmosphere.

So, atmosphere is something I recognize when I see it (or listen to it, like The Cure) but how do you create it? I don't know that I'm any expert on this, but I have been looking into it for almost a year.

Imagery- What images are you creating...and do they create atmosphere? Heavy, dark brooding ruins, castles, deteriorating mansions...dense forests, places that are steamy and hot or places that are cold (mild and pleasant is great for picnics but not so much for the atmosphere) what things do you focus on or describe?

Word Choice- I studied Poe's Fall of the House of Usher for word choice, and made a list that I'll probably post on the blog tomorrow. There were certain words that I used (probably too much) tattered, dark, gloomy, etc. But in finding new variations I found some new words. Tenebrous is another word for darkness. Even sometimes when I'm focused I will have to use the thesaurus because I'll be so focused on certain words. When I wrote the first scene of The Fall, I was using the word shaking over and over. It took me a few drafts to switch some of them to trembling.

Sentence Structure- Poe ties you up and abuses you with his sentences. For a modern (and possibly lazy reader) his sentences are like some kind of hedge around the castle that is the story. You have to hack your way through. I'm a short sentence and fragment type of writer, so finding a balance was a lot of fun. Atmosphere does require some long and in depth sentences, but I think it is nicely punctuated with some ominous fragments. Here and there.

Voice- voice is such a weird thing. I keep reading that we all have a certain authorial voice that comes through in our writing. Maybe, maybe, one day I can take The Fall, and Handcuffs, and Greedy an unpublished realistic contemporary that I really loved writing and see the same authorial voice in them (the character voice is certainly very different in all of them). I do think that you could find similarity in the turn of the phrase, etc. To me, working on atmosphere with voice is about what the character notices. In The Fall, Madeline does not really know what is normal or how normal people live, if, for example (and this doesn't happen, but whatever) if the walls start bleeding, she's like, hmmm that didn't happen yesterday. Whereas another character might be freaked the hell out. I've started another Gothic haunted mansion sort of manuscript in which the main character is much more aware of what is weird and creepy and what isn't weird and creepy. Both ways are fun.

So, in conclusion, for writing things with atmosphere, I think the key is to figure out what you want, and how far you're willing to go to get it. I don't think the modern reader is willing to hack through a jungle of words (they'll do it for Poe, but probably not for many others). But I do think that the modern reader loves good atmospheric stuff.

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Reading- 5 copies of Handcuffs...

Okay, so my kids drew these out of a hat. They were really excited, and then asked what they had won. I told them they had won bubblegum...tomorrow. So now I have to remember to get some gum.

I am in the process of following everyone who has followed me, so I should be able to find everyone, but if you see that you won, you could email me your address at I plan to be a better blogger/blog reader over the summer! :)

The winners are

I'm going to do another give away in early August for teachers working with their classroom libraries, and students going back to school (and whoever else!)


Teaser Tuesday

Hey guys, I'm going to draw (from my summer sun hat) the winners of the Handcuffs contest, so if you need a copy, make sure you comment on my post from Saturday!

This is the first teaser I've done this summer. It's something new I'm working on, and I'll probably only leave it up a few days :) . Would you want to read on?

The sun is descending and it’s begun to spit a cold rain when our conveyance rumbles to a stop at a crossroad. An awkward box-like truck is blocking the road, and even in an armored carriage we won’t try to pass it. Burly men in masks, cloth ones--flimsy and useless to stop serious contagion--stagger back to the truck, carrying bodies wrapped in tattered quilts. I wonder if the people, those who are still alive, will be cold tonight. If those are their only blankets.

April gags behind her white mask. “Too bad your father didn’t design these things to keep out noxious smells as well as noxious diseases.”

The truck moves forward a scant hundred yards and stops again. The driver doesn’t care that he’s blocking traffic, even though we are running late, heading to our favorite club.

The men, so muscular from lugging about corpses, swagger up to a woman who is holding a small bundle. When they try to take it she shrieks and tries to run away. A man comes out of what’s left of a building; I see that the roof has been blasted away, probably during some useless riot, and the stone house is roofed with canvas, A sort of tent—house, I can’t imagine that it’s warm or comfortable. He stops the girl, grips her shoulders and forcibly turns her.

The man says something, gestures to the truck. He’s impatient. I try to guess how old she is. From her posture, I’m supposing that she’s just a girl. In this light, under the bulk of her cheap protective clothing, it is impossible to say.

Maybe that’s why I feel connected to her, because she’s so young.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Wikipedia on Gothic Lit

I know, Wikipedia? But for the casual researcher (like me hearing some tidbit of info and wanting to know more about it), Wikipedia is where we go. If it's important I verify it elsewhere, but otherwise I just go...hmmm interesting.

So, if I were casually interested in Gothic Lit, what would I learn from Wikipedia?

Gothic fiction (sometimes referred to asGothic horror) is a genre of literature that combines elements of both horror andromance. As a genre, it is generally believed to have been invented by the English author Horace Walpole, with his 1764 novel The Castle of Otranto.

I am very sorry to say that I owned and read Castle of Otranto in my second or third year of college, that I sold it back to the bookstore. I believe this was because it was in a compilation three book in one type deal, and I hate those as a reader.

The effect of Gothic fiction feeds on a pleasing sort of terror, an extension ofRomantic literary pleasures that were relatively new at the time of Walpole's novel. Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the gothic revivalists' rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere. The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations—thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Gothic writers often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic, and superstitious rituals. In literature such Anti-Catholicism had a European dimension featuring Roman Catholic excesses such as the Inquisition ).

Okay, I have to admit that I LOVE this whole section, because I love atmosphere. I also love that idea of adding ruins into places to add interest...that's exactly what I was writing about last week, how the ruined hotel next door to our resort added so much texture and interest to my balcony view. How I love old stuff, and ruined stuff. Takes me back to my two week European whirlwind tour, the castles, the torture museums, the castles, the catacombs, more castles...some people whom I am married to were sick of castles, but I have to admit, I have no idea how anyone ever gets sick of castles...(once my new scanner gets here I can put some of my awesome castle photos online, yay summer project!)

Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, thesupernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay,doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses.

OMG, I am so excited to report that I have all of these in The Fall (thanks Mr. Poe!) and all of them in either one or the other of my works in progress.

The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes,persecuted maidens, femmesfatales, monks, nuns, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves,monsters, demons, angels, fallen angels, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, theWandering Jew and the Devil himself.

Sadly, I have to report that I have no perambulating skeletons. The middle of this list could be pulled right out of the shelves of popular paranormal lit, couldn't it? Except I think that instead of falling for the vampire you're supposed to fall for the Byronic hero. Still, it's interesting to see that these elements that have been used by so many other types of fiction were stock characters of Gothic Fiction.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Summer Reads...want a copy of Handcuffs?

I'm interrupting my series of posts on Gothic Literature to give away some books! Edited to add that I'm writing about Gothic because my new manuscript is Gothic...Handcuffs is actually realistic contemporary...see my website for a description/excerpt).

I just got back from the beach. When I think of summer reads, I don't think of light and fluffy, I think of books that suck me in. Cause if I'm sitting in the sun sweating, or riding on an airplane trying to forget the misery that is riding on an airplane, or whatever...I want a book that interests me. It doesn't have to change my life, just make me want to read on.

None of my adorable little copies of Handcuffs have ever gotten to go to the beach, but I'm pretty sure that someone somewhere might find it enjoyable summer reading.

Give me a comment to let me know how much you want one or where you're going to read it this summer...(and if you aren't following my brand new blog, maybe you could sign on for that, too?) I'm going to give away five of them!!!!

Winners will be announced on Tuesday Night! ETA, obviously these will all be signed. But I have to warn you, my signature won't make you much money on ebay :) Also, I changed the winners announcement from Sunday (gonna be at my dad's) to Tuesday after Teaser Tuesday!

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Friday, June 18, 2010

YA and Gothic Lit- the Overlap

Okay, I've been asking everyone I know to define Gothic Lit for me. I had one college class and read a lot of Victoria Holt novels that my mom gave me, followed by a lot of V. C. Andrews novels, followed by Anne Rice... so I have a definite perspective of Gothic Lit. But I find that many people have different opinions, or backgrounds, or impressions.

I asked Amy Ross in particular...not only did we both write Gothic YA novels, but at one point we discussed that we had both made lists of particular words/vocabulary to make sure we got into our novels. (I plan to do a blog entry on my word list sometime in the next few weeks). And, she's as knowledgeable as anyone I know about the overlap between YA Lit and Gothic Lit. She came through with something even more insightful than I expected!

So Bethany asked me to write a guest post about YA Lit and the Gothic, partly because I'm shopping around a Gothic YA novel of my own right now, and partly because I've taken a few classes on the Gothic, and so apparently I'm supposed to know something about it (haha).

One thing I have noticed in my studies is that there is a strong affinity between classic Gothic stories and contemporary YA Lit. For example, even though "young adult literature" didn't exist as a genre back then, a lot of the earliest Gothic novels (written in the 18th and 19th centuries) revolve around teenage heroines who run away from home, go on adventures, outsmart bad guys, and generally act pretty bad ass for their era – just the type of activities we expect in modern YA stories.

For another, the Big Bad Guys in classic Gothic novels – whether they be vampires and demons or hyper-strict fathers and psychotically persistent suitors – often represent the ways that young people have always felt restricted by their position in society. It turns out that even in the 18th century, teenage girls were frustrated with their parents telling them what to do, their culture telling them how to behave, and boys telling them what they should do with their bodies.

It makes sense, then, that the Gothic is starting to show up again in YA novels of today. I'm talking about more than just vampires here – ruined castles, haunted houses, dark secrets, black magic, torture, mistaken identities, madness, moral ambiguity... if you spot any one or more of these elements in a book you're reading, there's a good chance it could be classified as Gothic. It turns out that a lot of these classic motifs are just as creepy and fascinating today as they were two hundred years ago – and our heroines might be even more bad ass.

Amy Danziger Ross blogs at Her current novel is about a group of contemporary teenagers who become dangerously obsessed with Gothic fiction, until it starts to become all too real.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why are the Ruins of things SO Interesting?

Maybe it's just me that loves ruins...but with the recent frenzy for post-apocalyptic literature, I don't think so.

Why are the ruins of a relationship more interesting than the relationship?
Why are the ruins of love more interesting than love itself?
Why are the ruins of a civilization more interesting than civilization?
Why are the ruins of a hotel all over my travel pictures?

Another question - if you could go anyplace in the world, where would it be? What are the ten places you'd like to visit make your list of the NEXT ten places you want to visit (there's no need to be pessimistic here, none of us are dying).

All of mine would be sites of archaeological interest. Macchu Picchu, Rome and Venice, Egypt, Angkor Watt, Eastern Europe (Dracula tour!), I want to return to Mt. St. Michel and see more of France (the museums were on strike last time I was there!) as well as the hill towns in the Dordogne Valley (see Mom, I listen to some stuff you talk about). I'd love to visit Carthage, Greece, the entire Mediterranean, really... And since my absolute favorite parts of the natural world = a fascination with caves, well...catacombs; I would like to go anyplace with catacombs.

I do love places of natural wonder...but the ones that made the most impact on me have always been archaeological... after a trip to The Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest (okay that was a favorite, too) my very favorite thing were the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.

There was a time as a kid when I wanted to be an archaeologist, though (irony alert) the only college elective I ever failed was an Archeology class.

So, on our trip to Mexico, the best part about our hotel room (we were in the older part of the building, the rest of our party in the newer part, with the huge whirlpool tubs) were the ruins next door. Now, I will say, that this trip was all about celebrating one of the world's most beautiful beaches with 5 and 7 year olds who love the beach. It was also about relaxation for the parents of said 5 and 7 year olds. So, we didn't even go to the major ruins. We took pictures at the archaeological site across the street, and we took pictures and stared at the ruined hotel, what I called post apocalyptic Mexico.

Now, my fascination led me to I found reviews of the rubble that said the hotel was a hotbed of food poisoning and mosquitoes. A one star hotel where drunk spring break kids nursed hangovers. What's left of it is pretty beautiful, though.

It makes me want someone to write stories about all the things that might've happened there.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Cell phones in literature and life

Okay, so I was one of the last people I know to get a cell phone. Got a pay as you go phone seven years ago when Ezra was born, upgraded to a green razr (whatever happened to those phones, I kind of loved mine) then a little white Motorola that I can check email on.

I've had some (even if very basic) cell phone service since my children were born. I can't imagine driving them around town without a phone.

Two things have brought my (shall I say our? yeah, I think the world is as dependent on cell phones as I am) dependency on cell phones. One, I reread one of my favorite books, and I went to Mexico.

The book was The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, a fabulous book that was released in 1992. Part of the action of the book is in the 2050's and part of it is in the middle ages. But the characters in the 2050's spent a lot of time ringing people up and taking messages. I was like, um, in the middle of a pandemic, people would be texting like crazy, people would be carrying their phones, they would be checking voicemail. To avoid being distracted from the story I had to tell myself it was probably some Brittish cell phone service outage.

I also remember that Guilty Pleasures by Laurel K. Hamilton came out about the same time, and that in the early books Anita Blake has to stop and call in from payphones. Early episodes of the X-files, anyone?

The thing is that after only a few short years we EXPECT to be interconnected and instantaneously communicating, and we expect everyone else to be able to unless there is some reason they can't (an asteroid hitting the earth, or whatever).

On my recent trip to Mexico I found myself without access to a cell phone. It was a huge pain. Especially with several people in different rooms. Frustrating...and inconvenient. I haven't used a hotel phone in years. It made me see how dependent I've gotten on the cell phone, and how extremely frustrating it is not to be able to report to others what is happening as it happens. Not to call up and tell someone to bring down the sunblock, not to be able to check dinner plans...and lets not talk about when our rented speedboat died in the middle of THE OCEAN and the rest of our group disappeared into the distance. I distinctly wanted a cell phone at that time.

Last two things I'm going to say...1. your average teen can text from inside the pocket of their hoodie.

2. The average teen doesn't really remember life before texting.

Isn't that amazing?

I on the otherhand, remember the Friends episode where Ross's baby was about to be born, and he was given a pager (555-JIMBO/JUMBO) a pager? Remember those?

Contemporary YA books in particular need to have some technological component. I recently asked a group of kids if they even had the experience of calling someone's house and saying, is so and so there? Calling the landline. They did, but usually only when a cell phone was dead or going to voicemail or whatever. Imagine not having to hear your boyfriend's parents' exasperation every time you called to talk to him for a few hours...oh yeah, modern teens don't! We live in fun times, don't you think?

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Sunday, June 6, 2010


If you are a YA writer, and you don't have any young friends, I am telling you right now, get yourself to a graduation ceremony. I went to two yesterday, because my little brother graduated from High School, and then to my own school's graduation to see my own students graduate.

In an odd (odd because I was a very cynical high school student who was very cynical and unmoved by her own high school graduation) it was very moving. And I cried.

There's just something about seeing that transition from child to adult...and the memories, and the speakers tend to be the kids who actually LIKED high school, but still...

YA writers write about coming of age, and graduation is all about that.

You can bet that there are kids in the audience who are ecstatic that high school is over. There are kids who are devastated, frightened, nervous. There are kids who bought into "these are the best years of your life" and kids who made them the best years of their lives, and kids who are waiting for the best years of their lives to start. And there are kids...who aren't really kids any more.

Books that Changed My Life (or something)

Here's a weird thing. None of my very favorite books are YA or Realistic. This is weird only because my first published book IS YA and realistic.

There are a lot of realistic YA books that I love. Speak, Fat Kid Rules the World, Looking For Alaska, Good Girls, Cracked Up To Be, and Skin Deep...three of those would make my top 25. Which would go something like this...

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
He, She, and It by Marge Piercy
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
Ender's Game/Shadow by Orson Scott Card
The Giver by Lois Lowery
The Talisman by Stephen King and
The Witching Hour and Lasher by Anne Rice
The Kushiel series by Jacqueline Carey
The Dark Tower series, particularly Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye
The Stand and It by Stephen King
Looking for Alaska by John Green
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Night by Elie Wiesel
Skin Deep by E.M Crane
The Vampire Chronicles 1-3 by Anne Rice
Feed by M. T. Anderson
The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick
Dune by Frank Herbert the first one ONLY :)

Yes, I cheated by including series and stuff, but I find that acceptable because there are SO Many Books...

I'll write blog posts later this summer explaining some of these choices. Some of them are dependent on when I read them. Some of them are dependent on who I was when I read them. Many of them I read at pivotal points in my life in both childhood and adulthood. All of them resonated with me. Some of them horrified me. Some of them I've taught, so that gives me a different perspective because I practically memorize them.

Has anyone out there read all of these? My husband has not read 7 of them, but of those 7 I know he started at least 3 and couldn't get into them. But having someone who has read the majority of my favorite books is sort of important to me.

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Summer Reading...and Areas that I don't Know much about

My summer reading list (above)

I'm speculating about this from a teacher's point of view as well as that of an author. Cause even if I have twenty students asking every day for sports books, I'm not capable of turning around and churning out a sports books. The thought...actually is pretty funny. Very funny. Extremely funny.

As I've said before, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is getting kids enthusiastic about books. (And for that I owe a big thanks to Suzanne Collins, because the Hunger Games has been a huge success as a classroom book). But besides picking out the books I'm going to force all the children to read together (the word children, I use loosely for 15 and 16 year olds---in other words, I'm getting old). I also love finding the right books for them to read independently.

And for that I spend a lot of time circulating as they peruse the shelves of the library.

One thing I know/believe is that the kids who are constant readers (and who buy books) know what they want. But I still recommend more and more books for them. These guys read a lot.

Categories I get asked for and Don't Know what to recommend

Sports Books- Even as an anti-sportite, I LOVE Chris Crutcher's Books, but the ones I'm familiar with are somewhat dated. There's Bleachers by John Grisham, but once they've read those, what else is there...why aren't more sports books? What should I be giving these (usually boys) students who ask for Sports books?

Horror- this is one I need for my new Speculative Fiction class. Not paranormal, (though the paranormal genre is great for getting kids to read, yay paranormal!) but true scary Horror. This summer I've got The Devouring and the Monstrumologist, and Poison on my reading list. What else should I get?

I'm particularly interested in Gothic YA right now. Cause that's what I'm writing.

Mystery- students are always saying they like to read mystery...and the thing is that mystery like romance is a aspect that is present in most books, but is there a mystery genre for YA?

These are some areas I want to learn more about... and read more of...this summer.

For the fall semester I'll be starting out with two Sophomore English classes and the Speculative Fiction class. Lots of fun research and reading for me to do.

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