Saturday, April 30, 2011

I Dig Reading April Update

April, like all months, was a good book month for me. I've been trying to move through the  TBR pile (who isn't) so I can clear out some major time to dawdle over the Game of Thrones books. Mock if you must, but I am new to the literary fantabulousness that is GRR Martin. I have only read the first book.

The only way I can make myself feel better about not having HBO is by reading the books as if they've just been published. #ignoranceisbliss

Here's what I read in April. 
Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart (non fiction). Excellent enviro book!

Mockingbird by Daisy Whitney, I recommend it. 

The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade (who rocks all kinds of Casbahs). She twifriended me and so I think she hung the moon. Oh, and her book is excellent. 

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. She is reliable and good as gold.

Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta. Stunning. I cried and CRIED. 

A Load of Old Ball Crunchers: women in history by Jo Brand. This was a comedy book from the early nineties and felt a little dated. But I love her, and want to check out her fiction next. 

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm, I recommend it. Great setting in the FL keys and it made me nostalgic for childhood adventure.

and The Giver and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Gah- I can't say enough. Such. Great. Books. 

If you're keeping track, and I'm not saying anyone needs to be... I am STILL working my way through Tess of the D'urbevilles. It's just depressing me so to watch Tess walk into these horrible situations that I know she has NO WAY of overcoming. 

Poor old sad Tess. So beautiful, so envied, and so irretrievably messed up. 

That makes 9 books for me in April, which according to my self-imposed rules, means $45.00 to the charity of my choice. You may remember that I over-gave in March because of all of the worldwide disasters that needed immediate attention, so I will not pick a new charity this month. 

I'll be back in May with more books, more reading, and more giving.

If you'd like to join the I Dig Reading Challenge, check out the details and sign on! You can choose to give at any level, and to any organization that you'd like to support. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Fives

So, this week's topic on Paper Hangover's Friday Fives is: 

FIVE book covers you're currently lusting over. 

I tend to go more on recommendations rather than the cover image. That being said, it took me about 45 seconds to find some books I am currently lusting over. 

#1. Invincible summer. Because, let's face it: we all want what we can't have, and I am never, ever, going to have that bikini body. When my hair was straight I wanted it curly, when it got curly I wanted it straight. 
I try to use this as an Oprah-like life lesson on being happy with what you have. Sometimes with success. 
I hear the book is not necessarily what the cover might make you think... and I'll know soon because I'll be picking it up this WEEKEND from the Barnes and Noble where I ordered it. Then I hope to share it with one of you... so keep tuned. 

# 2. Saltwater Vampires by Kirsty Eagar, because Nomes recommended it, and she has NEVER steered me wrong. Also because this cover is scary. I am fighting off a chill as I type. That's effective marketing.

3. Loser Queen, by Jodi Lynn Anderson because it just cracks me up. I want those little knit bunnies. I want to hold them. I want to squeeze them. I want them to love me back, and I want to know what they're doing here. It's cute, quirky, and kinda funny.

4. Lauren Oliver's Delirum. Honestly, I'd read her next book if the cover was ugly and boring. Thankfully it's this funky fresh graphical stunner of a cover. I love the robin's egg blue color, I love the font, and I am intrigued by the back image shining through. Win. Win. Win. 

5. Ten miles past normal by Frances O'Roark Dowell. 
You say: what an impractical spot for an electric guitar lesson. 
I say: I want to know more about this character, and what makes her tick. 

What covers are you lusting over?

Go to Paper Hangover and join in the fun!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Buzz of Love

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's question: If your WIP(s) or favorite book(s) were a song, which song would they be?

I don't often listen to music when I'm writing, mainly because I want as few necessary accessories as possible. I steal an hour here and there throughout the week to write. It could be sitting outside with my kids while they play in the treehouse or waking up at 5 AM and sneaking downstairs before they wake up. I feel like if I get into a pattern where I "have" to have music to write it could be problematic.

I want my only need, when it comes to writing, to be a journal or a computer. 

That being said, I do think of music when I think about my WIPs and characters.

For the book The Insect Collector, my go-to song is Buggin' by the Flaming Lips. Check out a live version here.

{It doesn't show up in my Mozilla browser, but does when I go into other browsers...Anyone know why?}

"All those bugs buzzin round your head.
...well they fly in the air as you comb your hair"

Yes, it's about bugs-- but that's not the only reason it fits.

It also will always sound like new love and summer to me, probably because my husband made a CD for me with this song on it when we were falling in love.

For my WIP Swamped, my MC Jess -- if he were a song-- would be Ben Fold's Five Song for the Dumped, found here

He spends a lot of the book angry about life and licking his wounds after being dumped, which fits to a "t". This is such a great angry-boy song!

Can you encapsulate one of your books or characters as a song or album? What about a book you love?

Visit the Highway to see the other responses!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Giver and Number the Stars: reviews

How did I miss Lois Lowry? How in the world? I only recently learned of this author, when her name kept coming up in blog posts. I can't believe it took me this long to find her. I had the great pleasure of reading both The Giver and Number the Stars over the weekend.

The Giver
Tiny synopsis: Jonas is a Twelve, which means he will be given his lifetime work assignment. In his community, Sameness rules everything. When he's given the job of the Receiver of Memories Jonas' life takes on new depth. He alone will hold his community's collective memory-- all the joy, all the pain, the strife and complication that is not Sameness. But can he? And will he?

This tiny synopsis can't even touch the surface of the amazing story told here. From the first line this book grabbed me and held me riveted. This is a complicated look at choices societies make, and the trade-offs they must deal with as a result. But I think what I take away from reading this book is the precision of words Lowry uses. Her words and descriptions are compact but full of layered meaning.

Number the Stars
Tiny synopsis: Annemarie lives in Nazi-occupied Copenhagen. As the Nazi plan to relocate Copenhagen's Jewish population becomes evident, Annemarie and her family do what they can to help their Jewish friends, not knowing if it will be enough.

This book is an interesting look at Copenhagen in this era. Having lived in the Netherlands I knew a little of the stories of that country during WW2. I was largely ignorant of what happened in Denmark during that time.

What happened was really amazing.

Lowry creates a fictional world punctuated with true events from this time period. I don't want to spoil it (though maybe I am truly the only person who hadn't already read this?)

What a great weekend!

My oldest son lost his first tooth, we had a great Easter, the weather Sunday was gorgeous, and I found a new writer to adore.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What Can Friskies Brand Catfood Teach You About Writing

While staring aimlessly at our bag of cat food the other day (don't ask), I read the paragraph on the back of the bag.

Here is said paragraph, copied directly:

"Step outside the ordinary. It's tall peaks and high places. Campfire smoke riding mountain breezes. A world reserved only for the adventurous... and cats. It's the peak of mealtime excitement, with enticing aromas, appealing shapes and wide open flavors, including chicken, beef and turkey. Plus accents of garden veggies and grill flavor. Best of all, it's just one of four delicious destinations Friskies offers. So open a bag. Unlock an adventure. And Feed the Senses."

For reference (as if you couldn't get it from the description) this is Friskies Grillers Blend.

So what can the copy on Friskies teach me about writing?

Surely there are depths to explore, but here's what I'm taking from my brief analysis of the Friskies bag.

1. There can be a level of earnestness that borders on ridiculous. When I re-read the first things I wrote (and even some later things) they come off as painfully intense and overwrought. There's a level of skill at work when we can make the reader feel those intense emotions without smashing them over the head with them. I am not saying this is something I've mastered, believe me. It's something I work on all the time.

2. Don't take yourself too seriously."A world reserved only for the adventurous... and cats." Seriously? Right now my cat is not planning a Himalayan mountain trek with his hiking club. His single goal this week is to shag the neighbor's cat (which we're not letting him do). It is key to be vulnerable with your writing at times. During the query fest last week, I have to be honest: the first couple of queries really stung. Really stung. But then I was able to shake it off and use all of that great advice.

3. Be precise with language. I'm not going to do a sentence by sentence assessment of the Friskies copy, because I think that borders on mean. I do think we can all strive to use words in a better way. I hope we are always growing in our use of language and learning more delectable, stunning, breathtaking and delightful words. When you love words, it's your responsibility to use them well.

So there you have it. Unlock an adventure, on me.

What wisdom did you find in the ordinary lately?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You tweet. I chirp and buzz

I got on twitter last week. 

It's like when Marge Simpson finally tries out the internet, and Lisa tells her: "I'm proud of you, Mom! You're like Christopher Columbus! You discovered something millions of people knew about before you."

I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, but right now I feel confused and inadequate. 

I prefer the long slow trill of a cricket's chirp, or what my friends might describe as a constant droning buzz of a bee. I think of blogging as a short format, and of course twitter reduces it to minuscule.

I think most difficult is being a newbie all over again. I don't like to feel clueless. As the youngest of three kids I always felt a little lost, a little out of the loop, and like I was the only one who didn't get it. 

Now I see that wasn't always the case, but being immersed in something new puts me right back into that feeling: lip-biting, hesitant, and muddled in the brain.

Do you tweet? What twitter tips can you share? What do you like ina tweet? Is it simply a way to connect with your mates in real time, or do you have a bigger twitter goal?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

For earth week: The Story of Stuff

If you haven't seen this video, you should check it out.

Happy Earth Week!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

RTW: your kiss is on my list

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
Compare your first kiss with your favorite character's first kiss!

Hmmm. Uh, is it terrible that I'm not sure I remember my first kiss? I mean, I remember the first kiss with what I consider a "real" boyfriend... but technically I think my first kiss was on a dare with a neighbor.

I don't think I've read anyone lauding the magic of a "first kiss on a dare with a neighbor". That's probably because these kinds of kisses are by their very nature quick, awkward, and not all that passionate. 

As you are probably tired of me mentioning, some of my favorite books are old, and therefore the MCs have passion, but not necessarily immediate physical passion. Jane Eyre, the second Mrs. deWinter in Rebecca-- these girls had more complicated romances. I think also, I didn't read these books for the physical passion. It's probably there, but I didn't really note it. There's just so much else going on.

Please tell me, is there an awkward "first kiss on a dare with a neighbor" scene that I'm missing?

I need to know about it!

Visit the Highway to see the other responses!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


There is a great group taking part in the query letter blogfest.The blog hop linky is at the bottom of this post, if you'd like to take part. 

Or sign up and join the fun here

This is actually the query-in-progress for a work-in-progress. I like to write the queries as I go along, and keep honing them as I work through the book.

Swamped (YA, mystery)
At Harleyville High School there are no career counselors. What's the point?

Like everyone else, seventeen year old Jess Heyward is on a fast track to a lifetime job at the chicken processing plant. It’s filthy, hard work with crap for pay.  

Despite what everyone's told him, Jess thinks he's different. He knows that if he keeps his nose clean and makes perfect grades he can escape with a free ride to college. It’s his only hope. It’s the best way to guarantee he won’t turn out like his dad.

When he's not studying, Jess and his friend Kai spend their time canoeing in the vast Okefenokee swamp. Then Amelia moves to Harleyville, and Jess thinks he thinks he finally has a reason to like his hometown. There’s just one problem: everyone likes Amelia, including Kai. When Amelia chooses between them it crushes their friendship.

Alone, Jess realizes someone is using the swamp. The more he discovers, the more he feels certain that something illegal is happening. He can’t figure out what. The Sheriff doesn’t believe his vague descriptions. He won’t talk to his parents. The only way to find out what is happening is to continue digging, which keeps leading to Amelia and her family.

Jess finds what he’s looking for. He figures out what’s going down in the swamp. 

Now he has to decide what to do about it. 

Should he expose it all, or lay low to get the one thing he wants most?

You can put feedback below, or email it to insectwriter (at) gmail (dot) com

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Turtle in Paradise

I look to Joanne Fritz at My Brain on Books for the scoop on all things Middle Grade. Not only does she review and recommend a never-ending stream of great books, she also works as a bookseller. She has incredible insight into the biz. 

If you're not following her, you should be.

Just last week she focused on a few books with moving as a theme. I was able to get one from my library right away: Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

Tiny synopsis: It's 1935. When Turtle's mom takes a new job, Turtle is sent to live with extended family in the Florida Keys. Falling into the pattern of life in the Keys is an adjustment. Turtle has to get along with family she never knew she had, get her bearings, try to fit in, and maybe find a little pirate's treasure, too.

I loved this story. I find myself connecting more with MG that's set in the past (I'm thinking about The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate). Eleven year old Turtle, the anti-Shirley Temple, is such a great narrator. She's world-weary, stubborn, and tough. The setting is so Our Gang-- kids being neighborhood kids back when you could spend your whole summer outside without fearing for kidnappers or pedophiles. The kids are hilarious- her cousins are downright mean, and Turtle gives just as good as she gets. 

You get to discover the Keys along with her, including local characters and her own family. It's fantastic.

Pick this one up-- it's worth it.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Thanks to Sophia Richardson and also Katie Upperman for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award.

Here are the rules of the award:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award (of course!).
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 10 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason.
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:

1. I share a birthday with Bronson Pinchot (Balki!), Mindy Cohn (Natalie!), Busta Rhymes, Cher, Balzac, and Jimmy Stewart. Don't lie- that would be an awesome party.

2. I'm the youngest of three girls. My husband is the youngest of nine (4 girls, 5 boys). We are both totally "the babies" of the family. 

3. My birthday was the date of death for Lorenzo de' Medici (1503), Christopher Columbus (1506), Clara Shumann (1896), Gilda Radner (1989), and Stephen Jay Gould (2002). According to wikipedia, nobody famous died on May 20th in 1974, the year I was born.

4. I just ordered 25 silkworm moth eggs and am rearing them. Sorry if that grosses you out. I got inspired when I picked up Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park at my son's book fair last year. You can get ONE MILE of silk thread from one cocoon. Anybody really into sewing? I can hook you up... in about 4 months. 

5. I lived in the Netherlands for five years and maintain an unhealthy addiction to stroopwafles. Seriously, they are like crack.  I loved the biking and the home birth in the NL. I miss my friends there  but not so much the wet weather. 

6. You read that right, I had both my boys at home sans drugs. I loved it. The most excellent trade off was not having to go anywhere after. It was bliss. The Dutch system also provides a home nurse who stays for a week. She does the shopping, cooking, cleaning, cares for older kids, and teaches parents how to take care of a newborn.

7. I love seeing outdated and enormous mobile phones in old movies. It never fails to crack me up.

I'd love to pass this along-- so if you read the blog and would like to take on the Versatile Blogger award, please do. If you have it already or don't do awards, no pressure. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

Just finished reading Melina Marchetta's The Piper's Son. 

Tiny synopsis: 
Tom is falling apart. 
He has crashed and burned. 
When tragedy hits his family they collapse in on themselves. Now they're all orbiting around their problems, none of them dealing with them head on. Young Tom is on his own, and he's not doing well. He's abandoned friends, love, school, and family. Almost everyone has given up on him. Now he has to pick himself up, as well as save his parents, his Aunt, his ex, and his friendships. 

But it's not looking so good.


I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Seriously. 

Writing the synopsis was so difficult, and it's hard to talk about it without giving things away. Tom is utterly heartbreaking as a character. He's stubborn, fierce, and vulnerable all at once. You want him to do the right thing, and he doesn't about 50% of the time. You are in anguish as you watch him mess up. Then you realize that his whole family is the same way. 

I cried and cried over the last chapters. It was heartbreaking, uplifting, and riveting. So well written, such a beautiful story, such lovely characters. They pole vaulted off the page and into my heart.

Please. Read it.

Cool contest with big payoff

The lovely folks at YAtopia are sponsoring one of those dream contests: put your agent pitch on their site, and they may pick YOU.

The dream agent: Natalie Fischer of Bradford Lit.

Check her out to see if the contest is right for you!

Alas, she is not right for me. When she was at the Dijkstra Agency her website specified she did not like bug books. 


But check her out, because she may fit you!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Fives: trading places


This is a good one,  because there are many characters I adore, that I wouldn't want to switch places with (I'm thinking the narrator in Rebecca, David Copperfield, or Jane Eyre).

I love reading about their lives, but they weren't exactly fun.

That also knocks out most dystopian and post-apocalyptic books. 

I don't think I could hang. 

I would love to find myself in the middle of a real-life mystery. So, five mystery-solving protags I'd love to switch out with would be:

1. Nancy Drew- she's really the go-to girl for mystery solving. If I could be in her shoes I could answer some of my life-long ND questions (What color is titian hair, really? Bess is dead weight, why is she still around? Is George gay? What's the deal with Ned?)

2. One of the girls in the Goonies, and because I'm no "Andy" I guess that makes me "Steph"? Whatever- I just want to go on an adventure with the Goonies (and spend time with a young Josh Brolin. yowza).

3. Linda from Mary Stewart's Nine Coaches Waiting. A French Chateau, handsome yet troubled European men, and a enormous mystery to solve. Very cool.

4. The HP gang, because who wouldn't want to check out that world? Also- they were really solving a mystery with each book, so I'm down with that.

5. Finally-- Sally Lockhart from Phillip Pullman's Sally Lockhart trilogy. She's a head strong girl who solves mysteries with a ragtag bunch of Victorian-era ruffians in London.
Sign me up!

Go to Paper Hangover and join the fun!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

RTW: the memory of the scar

WOW! The 75th Road Trip is upon us.

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic: What is the story of your best scar?
When the door smacked into my face I heard a pop. I saw a burst of light as the pain radiated through my skull. Before long the trail of blood was running into my eye. It took my sisters about 30 seconds to start laughing at me, despite the dripping blood.

No, I wasn't in the process of performing a heroic deed.
I'd not just saved an animal, child or elderly person from impending danger.
I wasn't experiencing the negative aspects of an abusive relationship.
I hadn't been fighting with my two sisters.

I'd been checking out Dude (his real name) a bagger at the Valdosta Piggly Wiggly, circa 1987.

My trips to the grocery store were only about one thing in those days: finding Dude, and checking him out. Trying to catch his eye. Every day I hoped he'd smile at me, want to talk to me. Maybe he would try to find out who I was, like I'd found out who he was. I wanted nothing more than to have him notice me.

On that day, when I, staring dreamily at Dude, opened the car door into my face, I wondered for a split second if this would be the day. Maybe today, when I didn't actually want him to look at me, he finally would.

Even a minivan door to the face did not spark a connection between me and Dude. In fact, I never talked to him. I still haven't talked to him. But I have a scar, in my right eyebrow, that reminds me of a hot day at the Piggly Wiggly, and a young girl who was dying to fall in love, but would have to wait a few years.

What's your best scar story? Go to the Highway and see them all. Add your own!

Oh, and I finally jumped into the whole twitter thing, though I have no idea what I'm doing right now. Here's my id for future reference. Tell me if I'm making glaring errors please! 



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bribery and polls

Kate Hart is always up to something cool. Visit her site, participate in her poll, and you could win super cute and crafty togs.

Green Patriots

I love the environment (you know this, right?) and I am a big fan of those WPA era posters.

Though I wouldn't necessarily like to live post-Great Depression, I would love the government to sponsor all my artist friends in making public service announcements.

I ran across the Green Patriot poster project today. It's all about combining environmental activism with great images. They've produced a book, you can find here.

I am drooling over it! Check out this one by artist Ryan Dumas (image source).

or this one by jaegerrae, (source)

Visit their site and submit your own design!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Review: Dreamland

Tiny Synopsis: Caitlin's sister Cass leaves home right before she should be heading off for her first year at Yale. Nobody can understand why she would drop everything to follow a guy to New York. When Cass leaves, Caitlin's parents do not cope well. Caitlin tries to fill in the void left by her high-achieving sister, but her parents barely notice. Eventually she meets Rogerson, a troubled guy from another school, and falls into an abusive relationship. The only way to cope is to hold herself in a walking dream-state. There she can distance herself from everything happening around her and to her. She can separate herself from what she's become.

As I read Dreamland this weekend I kept thinking about how solid and consistent Sarah Dessen is as a writer. Man oh man, can she write a compelling story (I have also read Lock and Key and Just Listen). In some cases the books hit on similar themes yet her work never feels rehashed to me. I've read about abuse before with her, parents and teens not communicating, even relationships among sisters-- but every time it is a unique, gripping, and original story.

I love how she writes about sisters and their relationships. She makes struggling families convincing and heartbreaking. The young couples in her books are so real, and the drama is always at the perfect level for the story-- never drama for drama's sake. Even though her books are not comedies, there are always a few funny moments. Dessen writes beautifully. The way Caitlin struggles is at once horrid to watch and so real, so well done. The language she uses to describe her dream state is incredibly touching.

I highly recommend this book. Actually, pick up anything by Sarah Dessen. You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

we interrupt previously scheduled programming

to bring you this.
Original here.

Mock -yeah- Ing -yeah- Bird

No, not that one. 

This one, The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney 

Tiny synopsis: Alex wakes up naked, in a boys room, and can't remember what happened. It becomes clear that she was raped. At her boarding school, justice doesn't come from the administration. Instead, it's doled out by the Mockingbirds. A group that examines cases and metes punishment for infractions against students.

This book was interesting. Alex's friends really push her to examine what happened to her closely, and help her dive into the system that is the Mockingbirds. I loved this idea, and I wanted it to be more riveting. But sometimes the story became really in-depth in describing the process the mockingbirds used (all the technical ins and outs, like their thorough system of checks and balances, for example). As a total politics nerd, I am ALL about the checks and balances, but it took me out of the story once or twice. 

I have a quote, hovering around the dusty corners of my brain, and I think it may have come from Stephen King. It goes something like this: the first draft you tell the story to yourself, then you tell the story to the reader. The gist, I think, is that sometimes the details that we need to understand how things work as a writer, the reader may not always need. I am sure this is a delicate line to walk, a very precise balance, and I think for most of the book Daisy Whitney manages this. At times, however, I felt like those details dragged it down. That being said, I don't know how I would have given the reader information about how thorough the Mockingbird system was, without doing the same.

I think it's not evident from the back cover, or the first chapters, that this is a quiet book. Though I hate the word 'quiet' because it sounds weak. This book is not about weakness at all. Maybe I should say this is a resolute book, or a steadfast, unyielding, and determined book. I think that's a good thing, in this case. To be honest, I didn't want her to take the book in another direction. The book is about not only one girl's very personal problem, but also how we as a caring and just society could try to right wrongs. 

What other way could she have taken it? It would REALLY take me out of the story if someone showed up, Bruce Willis style, to dole out some vigilante "justice". I think that would have been a very different story, maybe scarier, maybe more "exciting" but in a cheap thrills kind of way. A book that gets its title from To Kill a Mockingbird is not a cheap thrills kind of book. Period.

Ultimately, I think Whitney told the story SHE meant to tell, and I think she told it well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Friday Five with Paper Hangover

I am thrilled to take part in Paper Hangover's first Friday Five!

They have been doing fantastic flash-writing projects every Friday, but because of work I haven't been able to participate. With the Friday Fives, I can. Woot!

Here's the question: What five things do YOU wish you'd known before you became a writer?

1. Mistakes are okay, as long as you learn from them. 
I look back on the first query I sent and I cringe uncontrollably. 

It was for a book that was 20,000 words. 

I know!!! Now, stop laughing. Okay, you can keep laughing. It's funny. 

I think it's okay to be a newbie- everyone was once. At the same time, there is SO much information out there available on the web for free. If you fail to use that information you become a disaster. So, start a newbie, but then educate yourself.

2. Feedback from family and friends can be helpful, especially in the beginning when you need to gain confidence, but it's not enough. 

That leads me to #3....

3. You need to reach out to other writers for criticism and support. The earlier the better.

4. Writing is re-writing. 
Your first version and the final version can be months, even years apart.

5. It's more work than you think, but it's worth it.

Visit Paper Hangover and join in the FUN!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

RTW: Publishing in 2111

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic:
Assuming we make it through the 2012 apocalypse, what do you imagine the publishing world will look like 100 years from now? 

Publishing in 2111?

Well, I have no doubt there will be many more books (maybe even some of my own) by then. I re-read a book this week along with my students called Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things.

It's all about how recycling is often just downcycling-- turning products never intended to be recycled into another product, losing value in the materials with each alteration.

The first chapter is called "This book is not a tree" and goes into all kinds of detail about the products used to create this "book". The ink on the pages is not toxic and can be "wiped clean" through an industrial process and "refilled" with the words of another book. It's waterproof and meant to be upcycled into another book in the future.

Of course, way back in 2002 when cradle to cradle was published, e-books were still a fantasy.

I still love a book (and even my students remarked about how "good" cradle to cradle feels), but I would also like to try reading on an e-reader.

I guess my hope for the future of publishing is that we will come up with technologies that offer choices for our reading experiences.Choices that get more books into more people's hands all over the world in a way that's safe and sustainable.

 And if those are YA books... well, even better.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Meet the Robinsons

This popped up when we turned on the TV one night last week. We quickly used our DVR magic to record it from the beginning.

I vaguely remember it coming out, but had no idea what it was about.

It is utterly charming, and one of those films that hits you right where you need it to.

It's all about an orphan named Lewis who is a brilliant inventor.
 He wants to be adopted, and when he fails miserably at that, he comes up with a Plan B. He creates a machine that will show him any memory he wants to recall. He decides that with his machine he can find out who his mother was, and why she left him.
I don't want to spoil it, but it doesn't go as Lewis plans.

This story teems with heart and hope. The inventions are amazing, the Robinsons take creative to a new level, and their family motto is exactly what I need to hear:

An excellent movie- check it out!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: The Ghost and the Goth

Okay. Erinn was about 150% right on this one (not that I doubted it). She has been recommending The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade for months.

Trusting Erinn as I do, I knew I would check it out eventually. I went to the YA section of my library on Saturday (joy! except for having to stand near the cheesy neon sign that says "Teen Reads!") and found it was in.

I devoured it Saturday while my husband watched the whatevers play the whoevers in some sport.

Tiny synopsis: Alona Dare has it all-- except a life. She was the homecoming queen (without the heart of gold) and head cheerleader until she accidentally walked in front of a bus. Now she has to watch everyone who  worshiped her move on without her. Then she notices something strange. Some freak (as she'd put it) that she has never given the time of day can see her. Can talk to her. He can, but will he?
Will Killian is the goth, and he's biding his time until he can get out of high school and move somewhere with fewer ghosts. Their constant chatter is making him crazy. His only defense is that they don't know he can see and hear them. Alona is on to him, and now all the other ghosts in town realize his gift. Can Will survive high school without getting committed for seeing dead people?

Please read this book. You will not regret it. This book is adorable. I am not typically a paranormal reader, so without Erinn's rec I may not have found it on my own. The characters are fab-- stellar voice. Alona is awfully bitchy but somehow still endearing. You root for her from the first moment. Will is a swoon-and-a-half. Nothing like a sensitive, misunderstood fella who also happens to have killer biceps. Their chemistry is sweet, with some serious sparks. This book also features a great little mystery that keeps you moving through the story. It has some serious themes, but never gets bogged down in them.

Read this book. Love this book.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

What I Meant to Read in March

March was a great reading month for me. I was able to squeeze in some gems.

What my Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Wake by Lisa McMann
13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
A Killing Frost by John Marsden
Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
The Time Machine by HG Wells

You may be asking, "What ever happened to Katharine reading a book she'd always meant to read ?"

Or maybe this is not something you've been losing sleep over?

Does this awesome poster ring a bell?

 Yes, I pledged to read a book I 'always meant to read': Tess of the d'Urbevilles.

The truth is, I started it, and I'm still reading it. 

I am not giving up on this. 

I promise.

I think it was sophomore year in HS when we were supposed to read Tess. Reading it now, it seems even more ludicrous that such a laborious read would be foisted on sixteen year olds (see how reading a classic makes you talk all fancy?)

In HS I never finished Tess. I am SURE that I didn't even understand the whole Maiden/Maiden No More thing. I was really, really kinda slow back then. I am certain I failed our quiz on the reading, and that was the end of me and Tess.

Or so I thought. 

I am about halfway through the reread, and I am enjoying it much more than I anticipated. It is heart-wrenching. I would recommend it for anyone writing about rape. The language is difficult at times, the descriptions are beautiful but a little long-winded, but Hardy makes Tess' anguish so palpable, so gutting, so real.

It is amazing to me that a man of any era, but particularly that one, could capture it the way he does. 

So- it will happen, but it didn't happen in March. I did read The Time Machine which I've always meant to read, too. It BLEW MY MIND. If you are writing dystopian I could not recommend it more. At 32,000 words it packs a mighty punch.

And, for a completely different theme: who fell for Gmail "motion" yesterday?

Friday, April 1, 2011

My list of 100 books

You may recall an earlier post about Claire's goal to collect data on 100 must-read books.

I had a lot of fun compiling my list (what are Sunday mornings for!?)

So I thought I would share it with you.

Her goal was to create a list of books that writers felt writers MUST read. But... I think my list morphed into more of "my 100 favorite books right now".

Check out my list below.

What have I forgotten? Who have I inadvertently missed? I know there are some books that didn't come to mind.

Let me know what you think or even better- make your own list and share it with Claire.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
The Butterfly Revolution by William Butler
To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My Sweet Audrina VC Andrews
Flowers in the Attic VC Andrews
Hoot by Carl Hiassan
Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Diary of Anne Frank
Feed by MT Anderson
The Collector by John Fowles
David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
Are you there god? It’s me Margaret by Judy Blume
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
Never let me go by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pulman
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Golden Compass Phillip Pullman
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
White Oleander by Janet Fitch
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Time Machine by HG Wells
Persuasion by Jane Austen
On Writing by Steven King
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
1984 by George Orwell
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
How to Ruin Your Summer Vacation by Simone Eikeles
The Password to Larkspur Lane by Carolyn Keene
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
How to Be Popular by Meg Cabot
Tiger eyes by Judy Blume
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch
Sophie Kinsella Twenties Girl
Dirty Little Secrets by CJ Omololu
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater
Harry Potter 1
Harry Potter 2
Harry Potter 3
Harry Potter 4
Harry Potter 5
Harry Potter 6
Harry Potter 7
Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again by David Foster Wallace
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Their eyes were watching god by Zora Neale Hurston
A Christmas carol by Dickens
Linden Hills by Gloria Naylor
The Story of Ferdinand the Bull by Munro Leaf
Night by Elie Wiesel
Charleston by Alexandra Ripley
Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier
We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Phillip Gourevitch
Maus I by Art Spiegelman
Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
The Joy Luck Club by Amie Tan
Cradle to Cradle by Braungart and McDonough
Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
Fraud by David Rakoff
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
A light in the attic by Shel Siverstein
The Butter Battle Book by Dr Seuss
The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
The Heart of a Woman by Maya Angleou
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick Chris Van Allsburg
First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball
The Secret of Chimneys by Agatha Christie
The Hounds of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Stand by Stephen King
Lady Sings the Blues by Billie Holliday
The Bible (My favorite is still the Picture Bible)
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Now you must be thinking "but what about_______?"

Let me know who I'll be embarrassed to have missed in the comments!