RTW: How Far Would You Go?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: How far would you go to get published?

“We writers can form quite an attachment to our characters and stories. But we also know publishing is a business, and sometimes to make it in said business–to really build a career from it–we have to bend a bit. How far would you go to break into the publishing world?”

Hmm… Honestly, I’d consider doing anyone of those things, and I have done a few of them (genre-jumping, agent requested revisions). BUT, before you start to wonder if I’ve sold my soul, let me say that I only made changes I truly believed in, changes I could fully get behind.While I do enjoy the privilege of making the final call when it comes to my work, I don’t believe I’m the end-all-be-all expert on writing. I believe there are publishing professionals (many, probably) who know much more and much better than I do, and I am not above listening to them, considering their advice, and applying it to my work–as long as their advice inspires me.

Sure, I made agent-suggested revisions when I was querying (who isn’t dying for a revise-and-resubmit at that stage of the game?), but I also declined to make such changes when I wasn’t feeling them, when I wasn’t certain they were the direction I wanted to take my story. Stressing about revisions is normal, but when I started losing sleep and making myself sick over the thought of taking my story to a place that made me incredibly unhappy, I respectfully refused to revise. I think I’d do the same with major revision request from an editor, should the situation ever arise: I’m willing to rework and alter and improve if the ideas resonate with me. If not, then I believe I’d pass on the opportunity.

So, I’m willing go FAR to get published. I will seek out sound advice. I will consider any and all advice that comes my way. I will work hard to make changes that excite me, changes that make sense, changes that I envision taking my work to the next level.

But I won’t do anything that doesn’t feel 100% right.

What about you — How far would YOU go to get published?

Oh! And have you heard about the Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest I’m hosting with Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller? It’s a fun and interactive way to highlight and share your favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements published in 2011. The Class of 2011: YA Superlative Blogfest will span four days, beginning Tuesday, December 27th and culminating Friday, December 30th. Click on the banner below to find out more and to sign up!

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RTW: Best of November and Reading Wrap-Up

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in November?

November was another fabulous book month. Here’s what I read…

Hushed by Kelley York – A fantastically edgy contemporary debut, full of darkness and unexpected twists and turns. Check out my Debut Love post for more about this one.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver – I absolutely loved this book! Read my Bookanista Recommendation post for all the reasons why.

Want to Go Private by Sarah Darer Littman – A cautionary tale about internet predators that left me more than a little skeeved. The teen voice in Private was younger than I normally read, and set against the very explicit language of internet pedophile Luke, it sort of gave me whiplash. While Private occasionally read as preachy, it’s certainly timely and important. Recommend for those who like contemporary “issue” books.

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting – A beautifully written, uniquely spun dystopian-set fairy tale. Check out my Bookanista Recommendation for a full review.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – A gorgeous legend-based story that takes itself utterly seriously, so I did too. A book you should avoid while you’re drafting or seriously revising… it will make you feel tragically incompetent. Still, Scorpio is too beautiful to NOT read. Check out my Bookanista post tomorrow for more on why I loved this one. 🙂

And, November’s Book of the Month: The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

From Goodreads: Melina Marchetta’s brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca – only this time it’s five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving. Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world. But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle’s death. And in a year when everything’s broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.

Oh my. I’ve yet to read a novel by Melina Marchetta that hasn’t completely shredded my heart. Here’s the thing though: The Piper’s Son (like its predecessor, Saving Francesca) isn’t exactly exciting. It’s not what I’d call a page-turner, and it certainly isn’t high concept.

But.

I fell head over heels in love with the characters of The Piper’s Son. I wanted to hug them, smack them, lecture them, and hang out with them at the Union pub all night long. I knew Tom and Georgie and Dom and Sam and Tara and Ned (I adored Ned!), therefore I rooted for them from start to finish. In fact, The Piper’s Son might be the most perfect example of a character-driven novel I’ve ever read. It made me teary, a rarity. It also made me laugh and ponder and want to visit Australia, as is the case anytime I read a Melina Marchetta novel.

The Piper’s Son is a definite recommend for anyone who loves contemporary, older YA/new adult, flawless writing, and books centered around family dynamics and character development. I absolutely loved it!

What’s the best book YOU read in November?

RTW: If I were head of curriculum…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: In high school, teens are made to read the classics – Shakespeare, Hawthorne, Bronte, Dickens – but there are a lot of books out there never taught in schools. So if you had the power to change school curriculums, which books would you be sure high school students were required to read?

First, there are several classics I’d most definitely keep on the list: Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Separate PeaceFahrenheit 451… These are all amazing books that (in my opinion) will always be relevant.

More contemporary books I’d add to the list if I were head of curriculum (blurbs from Goodreads):

Looking for Alaska by John Green – Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult – Sterling is an ordinary New Hampshire town where nothing ever happens–until the day its complacency is shattered by an act of violence. Josie Cormier, the daughter of the judge sitting on the case, should be the state’s best witness, but she can’t remember what happened before her very own eyes–or can she? As the trial progresses, fault lines between the high school and the adult community begin to show–destroying the closest of friendships and families. Nineteen Minutes asks what it means to be different in our society, who has the right to judge someone else, and whether anyone is ever really who they seem to be.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – With his first foray into teen literature, acclaimed author Sherman Alexie packs a punch in this absorbing novel about a Native American boy searching for a brighter future. At once humorous and stirring, Alexie’s novel follows Junior, a resident of the Spokane reservation who transfers out of the reservation’s school — and into a nearby rich, all-white farm school — in order to nurture his desire to become a cartoonist. Junior encounters resistance there, a backlash at home, and numerous family problems — all the while relaying his thoughts and feelings via amusing descriptions and drawings. Having already garnered a National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, this moving look at race and growing up is definitely one to pick up.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniSet against the volatile events of Afghanistan’s last thirty years, from the Soviet invasion to the reign of the Taliban to post-Taliban rebuilding, that puts the violence, fear, hope and faith of this country in intimate, human terms. This is a tale of two generations of characters brought jarringly together by the tragic sweep of war, where personal lives, the struggle to survive, raise a family, find happiness, are inextricable from the history playing out around them. At once a remarkable chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship, it is a striking, heart-wrenching novel of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love, a stunning accomplishment.

These four books among my favorites. Not only are they highly entertaining, but they’re packed with emotional punch, history, memorable characters, and countless teachable themes. Sure, each and every one would probably end up challenged (they’re all incredibly intense and deal with mature issues), but  that’s even more reason to highlight them and expose teenagers to them. The books on MY reading list are sure to open the doors to some important and weighty dialogue.

If you had the power to change high school curriculum, what books would be on YOUR reading list?

RTW: Wonder (Writing) Woman

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What are your writing/publishing superpowers (drafting? plotting? writing queries?) — and what’s your kryptonite?

This is SO me!

This is such a tough question–especially the superpower element! Why do I have such a hard time pinpointing my strengths?

I suppose my writing superpower would be in the details. I’m a big description girl. I think I excel at painting a picture with words and really helping my readers to envision exactly who or what I’ve written about. I often find my first drafts so FULL of descriptions and sensory details that I end up having to go through and hack big chunks of them. Sometimes I probably don’t cut enough; someone once told me it was almost as if an attic I’d written about had become a character in and of itself, thanks to the million-and-one details I’d included. Still, I’d rather write too much and have to edit later than struggle with descriptions and ways ground my readers in a scene.

As far as kryptonite goes, mine definitely involves stakes and tension. I have such a hard time increasing the pressure, torturing my characters the way they need to be tortured to craft an engaging, exciting page-turner. My natural instinct is to make things easy for my characters (I love them!), not harder, and that seems to be the critique I get most often: Up the stakes, bump the tension up a notch. Believe me… I’m working on it!

Tell me… what is your writing superpower? Your kryptonite? And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to see how the other Road Trippers answered today’s question!

RTW: October’s Wrap-Up and Book of the Month


Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s the best book you read in October?

Wow… October was a month of aMaZiNg books! For the first time ever, I couldn’t choose just one Book of the Month. Nope, this month, I’m giving you TWO extraordinary recommendations–lucky you! But first, here’s my wrap-up:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Honestly, I wasn’t sure I’d like this one. I’m not a Holden Caulfield fan, and I’ve heard Diary compared to The Catcher in the Rye more times that I can count. That said, I DID enjoy Diary, iimmensely. Junior’s narration was often funny, incredibly poignant, and, at times, heartbreaking. The comics and cartoons sprinkled throughout were a much appreciated surprise. I have no idea what it’s like to be an Indian living on a “rez,” but this book felt absolutely authentic.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – I snatched this middle grade novel up at the library after reading glowing recommendations from Kat Owens, Sara McClung, and Alicia Gregoire. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue what was going on throughout the first big chunk of the story. That’s not to say I wasn’t entertained; I totally was. Miranda and her accompanying characters were vivid and intriguing. Still, all of the cryptic clues and references to the future left my head spinning. But, I just had this feeling that sticking with it would pay off big. It SO did. I literally had chills throughout the last quarter of this book–the ending is that mind-blowing, that stunning. The day I returned When You Reach Me to the library, I went out and bought my own copy because I couldn’t NOT own it. If you’re not sure whether you like middle grade, read When You Reach Me. You will LOVE it!

Toxic by Jus Accardo – The follow-up to my CP’s debut, Touch, will be available Spring, 2012. I can’t give anything away, of course, but mark your calendars… it’s fantastic!

Hourglass by Myra McEntire – I loved this premise–time travel, the chance to change lives in the span of one hour. Main character Emerson was spunky and cool, though she sort of fell apart every time an attractive boy stepped onto the scene. The boys in the book were pretty hot though… certainly good distractions! I also dug the twisty ending and the atmospheric descriptions.

Teach Me by RA Nelson – Eek… Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! I wasn’t sure about this one going in: High school senior has a sordid affair with her teacher, obsession and betrayal ensue. But, thanks to main character Carolina (and her majorly over-the-top shenanigans) I ended up enjoying Teach Me. Carolina is super smart and makes awesome observations about people and life, but she’s a social outcast among her peers. She somehow manages to garner sympathy even when making some questionable–okay, disturbing–choices. A well-written, compellingly honest contemporary.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laine Taylor – This book. Oh, THIS BOOK. Simply brilliant, and definitely one of my October Books of the Month. But, I’m not going to go into a full recommendation today because Smoke and Bone is the book we’ll be discussing for Fall Book Club. Check back Friday for my lovefest review.

And my second Book of the Month, Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins


From Goodreads: Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

I’d heard from more than one person that Lola was better than Stephanie Perkins’ debut novel, Anna and the French Kiss, which I absolutely loved. I sincerely doubted that anything could be better than Anna, but yeah… I have to say, I think I enjoyed Lola just a *tiny* bit more.

Seventeen-year-old Lola Nolan is an amazing protagonist. One of my favorites of any YA, I think. Lola is all kinds of conflicted. While she’s highly emotional, she’s also genuine and loving and unique and creative and funny. She has a humorous way of describing tough situations that lightened what was, essentially, a serious novel. And while Lola is a sweet girl, she’s not exactly a good girl. She’s self-centered. She lies. She sneaks around behind her parents’ backs. And that rocker boyfriend mentioned in the synopsis above? He’s twenty-two, and not exactly wholesome (he actually turns out to be slightly less-than-perfect, but he had his reasons and I have to say, I didn’t hate him). All of this discord within Lola’s personality made her delightfully real. She’s someone I wish I’d known in high school, someone I would have loved to be friends with.

And Cricket… what a perfectly lovable romantic interest. I see him as he’s pictured on the cover (adorable), and cherished every aspect of his sweet, highly intelligent, awkward, loyal, bumbling, pin-striped personality. He’s just right for Lola (obviously), yet he’s wonderfully flawed (like a real boy!). He knows what he wants, and while he’s full of conviction, he’s patient too. Plus, he’s friends with Etienne! I challenge any female reader to dodge to Cricket’s charms. Seriously. He’s enchanting.

Lola is set in San Francisco, which is probably obvious if you’ve given the cover a look. The city comes alive within the pages of the book, so much so that I want to visit again and take time to savor the atmosphere Stephanie Perkins so perfectly captures. All the major landmarks are there (the Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard Street, Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Park), but there’s also a more subtle mood that hangs in the background, a sparkle that’s all San Francisco, yet not at all cliché or stereotypical.

And Lola‘s supporting characters… fabulous! Andy and Nathan (Lola’s dads) were distinct, strict, bona fide parental figures. Best friend Lindsey was an excellent source of comic relief. Calliope (Cricket’s twin) was an unpredictable sort of mean girl. Even Norah turned a corner and became someone I wasn’t expecting.

Lola, at its heart, is about finding your authentic self and embracing it for all it’s worth. A very worthwhile message weaved cleverly into a layered, entertaining story full of family and friendship and love. If you think you don’t like contemporary, or romance, or “chick-lit,” think again. Stephanie Perkins has a talent for creating real-life characters you’ll fall for head-over-heels, and for writing romantic scenes that’ll have your heart skipping. Please, please, please, buy and read Lola and the Boy Next Door!

What’s the best book YOU read in October? (And don’t forget to check back Friday for my review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone!)

RTW: For the love of writing…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: What’s your numero-uno reason for writing?

I write because I love it. I really, really do. I think you HAVE to love writing to make an honest go at a career in it. All of the challenges, all of the nos, all of the endless hours and sleepless nights and blank pages with their blinking, taunting cursors. All of the aggravation and doubts and deleted words… Writing is hard. If you don’t genuinely love it, you’ll throw in the towel the moment the going gets too tough.

But, even though I do really and truly love writing, I don’t think that’s numero-uno reason I do it.

Simply, I write because I can’t NOT write. 

I write for the same reasons many people go to church. Writing grounds me, centers me, calms me. It drains my frustration, is an outlet for bottled up emotion, and it allows me imagine fantastical possibilities. Writing lets me create and discover new people, new places. It gives me something to focus on when life becomes disorderly. Writing gives me a tiny fraction of control over what is essentially a wildly disobedient world.

Also, writing can be such fun!

What about you? What’s the number one reason YOU write?

RTW: A Winding Road (And congrats, YA Highway!)

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Today’s Topic: YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday has reached the 100th mile marker. How has YOUR writing journey gone so far?

One-hundred Road Trip Wednesdays?! Huge congratulations to YA Highway and its contributors on their longevity and all their success. Thank you so much, Highway-ers, for bringing your genius to the YA community, for doling out wisdom and expertise, for sharing insightful, informative, diverse, and entertaining posts, and for inviting aspiring authors like me to participate your fantastic Road Trip Wednesdays. I’ve met tons of incredible people since I first joined in over a year ago, and I’m so thankful for this outlet, and for this chance to belong to such a friendly and supportive community. Here’s to another hundred Road Trips!

Um… my writing journey? It’s going. 🙂 I’ve met some goals, for sure, and I’ve set some new ones. I’ve grown in many areas, and I’ve identified others I’d like to improve upon. I’ve signed with a brilliant agent. I’ve made some amazing friends. I’ve read some inspired books. I’ve written some beautiful words. I hope my writing journey continues in its forward motion (no reverse, please!), and I hope it continues to give me a sense of self and accomplishment no matter where my final destination may be.

How’s YOUR writing journey going?