Category Archives: YA literature

Recovering From the NaNover

Another year, another NaNoWriMo gone by.

On the NaNo website it says that there were over 310,000 participants from all over the world (596 regions), though I’m curious as to how many crossed the finish line (if anyone can point me in that direction, please do). But even if someone wrote only 10,000 words, that’s still 10,000 more words that they didn’t have at beginning of the month. That’s something.

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I’m also curious as to how the process went for others and what they do once they’ve finished. Editing is certainly as personal a process as the writing part is.

This year was COMPLETELY different than when I wrote my first NaNoWriMo (INTERGALACTIC) novel two years ago. In 2011, I had been mulling the story and characters over for a few months, I had written an outline (what I call a sequence and beat sheet) and some brainstorming exercises around it all, I had wound myself up, started off with a bang, kept up a steady pace, and even finished early. I also had enough time to hang out in the forum and see how everyone else was doing.

This year I only had the seed of an idea (a location in space and time and 2 characters), had completed one brainstorming exercise, had a fuzzy direction with no sense of how the story would end, and I PANTSED it like crazy. I didn’t have much time early on, or in the middle, so with a week left to go I was still at 18,000 words. I wrote the last 32,000 in the final week. I didn’t have time to reread what I had written the previous day, just went for it. Also, the only contact I had with other NaNoWriMoers (NaNoWriMoists?) was on the @nanosprints twitter page where we encouraged each other to do things like write 1,000 words in 30 minutes.

Both times I was writing something out of my comfort zone. Trying on a new genre. In 2011 it was more plot-based genre fiction (a comedic YA sci fi), this time is was YA contemporary lit. Well, okay, I THOUGHT it was going to be magical realism, but it ended up more in the realm of “unreliable” narrator. The protagonist simply views the world differently than most folks and she’s a little mentally unstable. When it comes time to pitch it I think I’ll call it “The Perks of Being a Wallflower for Queer Girls.” Right now it’s called WINTERSPRING AND SUMMERFALL (although I’m thinking of changing that to Summerfall and Winterspring, whichever sounds better).

I am definitely more of a “planner” by nature when it comes to novel writing, though totally willing to go in new directions if inspired in the moment. I definitely let the magic happen during the creative process. The fascinating thing for me about “pantsing” it this year was that the story still emerged, even without the plan. It sprang from the ethers and I just had to trust. I had to let go of any expectations and just see where it took me.

One of my favourite aspects this time around was when a particular character emerged out of nowhere. A minor character (a gay teacher whose partner is dying from AIDS – this story takes place in the 80’s) turned up, who not only took the story in a wonderful new direction, he added drama, an ally for my protagonist, and a subplot that rounded out the story really magically at the end.

I keep saying that I have a “hot mess” on my hands, but I think when I finally read it (I’m setting it aside until my holiday break), it will be more cohesive than I believe it to be. That happens a lot to me and I have enough years of writing behind me for it to be so. Structure happens a bit intuitively for me due to my fabulous drill sergeant screenwriting instructors at the University of Washington.

So, how did you do? Did you pants it or plan it?

Are you going to give it a break or read it right away?

Set it aside to germinate or dive right into your edit?

And, most of all, what were some of your favourite magical moments?

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Filed under behind the scenes, do something different, Intergalactic, NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, Pantsing, Rewriting, YA literature

Bitten by Books Editor/Author Chat and Giveaway

No Middle Grade Monday post for me today. If you want to get your MG fix for the week, visit Shannon Messenger’s Blog for today’s posts.

but I have this announcement:

Bitten by Books is offering an online chat between authors and readers tomorrow. The dialogue is ALSO a contest, a chance to win one of TWO $20 Amazon Gift Certificates.

If you RSVP TODAY to enter the contest you get a 25 point BONUS:
http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=62201

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HOW IT WORKS

Tomorrow, Bitten by Books will put up a short blog post by the editors. Then readers post questions in the comments over a 24 hour period and they/we answer those questions, creating an online conversation between editors/authors and readers.

There are two $20 gift cards from Amazon.com. For every post, readers acquire points and the two readers with the most points win. Earn 25 extra points by RSVPing to the event (you only get the points if you go back and comment tomorrow, though).

We’d love to have you there! If you’d like to help spread the word, here’s the info you need to know:

ONLINE CHAT WITH FUTUREDAZE EDITORS AND AUTHORS
Hosted by: Bitten by Books
Event Date:  Tuesday, March 12th.
Start Time: 12:00 Central Time (US)
RSVP TODAY!:  http://bittenbybooks.com/?p=62201
Contest Open: Worldwide
Prize:  Two  $20.00 Amazon Gift Cards (two winners)

5 Comments

Filed under contests, Science Fiction, short fiction, YA literature

MGM (or YA?) The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock

(Cynthia Heinrichs is the winner from our FUTUREDAZE anthology draw – yay)

Last week on MG Monday, Barbara Watson discussed and listed several MG books that she thought were on the cusp of YA. As a matter of fact, some of these books are difficult to place on shelves for this very reason.

These are the type of MG books that interest me the most. Books that challenge exceptional readers, have complex characters, address important themes, but steer clear from any sex and graphic violence. Teens who are not into love triangles need great stories, too.

Interestingly, on a panel at FaerieCon this weekend, I heard an author define YA as ages 14+, and this is not the first time I have heard someone in the industry say this (though many will define it as 12+). Since most people define MG 9 to 12 years old, where does that leave the 13 year olds?

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The SWEET REVENGE OF CELIA DOOR by Karen Finneyfrock falls into this zone for me. A sweet coming-of-age story that cultivates in a cringe-worthy moment when we are reminded of the emotional pain and cruelty of 9th grade.

From GoodReads:

Celia Door enters her freshman year of high school with giant boots, dark eyeliner, and a thirst for revenge against Sandy Firestone, the girl who did something unspeakable to Celia last year.

But then Celia meets Drake, the cool new kid from New York City who entrusts her with his deepest, darkest secret. When Celia’s quest for justice threatens her relationship with Drake, she’s forced to decide which is sweeter: revenge or friendship.

I have known author Karen Finneyfrock for about 15 years. We met in the Seattle poetry scene (she used to MC the Seattle Poetry Slam and I used to run the Seattle Poetry Festival). Her poetic background is revealed with her lovely language and imagery. Of the protagonist’s nemesis she writes, “That’s Sandy Firestone. And if my heart were a crossbow, every arrow would be pointed at her.” Of the boy she meets, “His blue and yellow sneakers were a foot from me, their fat laces pouting over the shoes’ tongues like bloated earthworms after the rain.”  It’s this language that will make it a great read for older middle graders.

As well, the main character is a poet herself and writes poetry every day.

Call me a planet orbiting a revenge-colored sun
Or a seed growing in the soil of settling a score…

What makes this a more mature read are the subject matter and a bit of swearing. The book claims on the back that it’s for the 12+ reader and I think that’s a good call. Parents should know that there are a few F-bombs dropped, but they don’t seem out of place in the halls of 9th grade (and the character gets into trouble for using the word at school). As well, bullies at the school call Celia a lesbian at least once. She’s not, although one of her friends turns out to be gay. This is only spoken about between the two friends and the book’s one kiss happens “off screen.” Some drinking also occurs “off screen,” but it’s not at all pervasive in the story.

This is a story of outcasts and bullies. I would have loved this book in 6th or 7th grade. I was also a poet as a kid, so there’s that, too. For the mature middle grader, I think would be a fine choice.

For more Middle Grade Monday selections, see Shannon Messenger’s Blog!

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Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, YA literature

Interview… Giveaway… Futuredaze!

~~CYNTHIA HEINRICHS is our WINNER~~

It’s overwhelm-mode here at Writing to Support My Teaching Habit (I need a good acronym! How about WritSMyTH?), and I won’t bore you with the details. It has to do with the sound of deadlines swooshing by and juggling the universe with my fingernails and valentines (or lack of time for) and 10th wedding anniversaries and 45th birthdays…

And, I’m off to Seattle for FaerieCon in a week. Wheee!

What do you do when you go into overwhelm? Eat sugar? Go on a crying rampage? Stay in your pajamas for a week? Or are you more of a take-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of person?

One thing I suggest for anyone like me who flits from one task to another with no time between work and domestic responsibilities – take time to celebrate your accomplishments. You are DOING IT! You are having the writing life. I know it doesn’t look so glamorous from the inside, so enjoy it wherever you can.

This week I’m celebrating the launch of FUTUREDAZE: an anthology of YA science fiction by giving away a copy of the book. My short story “String Theory” appears along with work by Jack McDevitt, Nancy Holder, Gregory Frost, Lavie Tidhar, Sandra McDonald, Brittany Warman, Stephen Covey, and many more.

Win a copy of:

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If you’d like to be entered to WIN a COPY of FUTUREDAZE (an ebook if you’re outside of North America), all you have to do is tell us what you’re celebrating this week and you’ll be added in the drawing.

Also, Underwords Press recently moved over from the Underwords Blog to a separate press website, so I’ll give you a bonus entry into the drawing if you GO HERE and give some love (or at least some like). Just tell me in your comment that you did.

Deadline for entries into the drawing is Friday, Feb 22.

And now, without further ado:

Interview with Erin Underwood, Futurdaze co-editor

Underwords transitioned to a small press in 2012, specializing in new short science fiction for Young Adults. What initiated this change and why this particular niche?

This is really a multi-part question for me. I used to enjoy reading when I was a kid, but there wasn’t a very strong YA presence in my local bookstore in the 1970-80s. Fast-forward 20 years later and I’m assisting bestselling young adult author Nancy Holder. That’s when my love for YA fiction rekindled. Around the same time, I also started the Underwords blog and realized how much I enjoyed working with writers to create new content for readers.

However, the true decision to begin a small press came when I realized how few science fiction anthologies for young adults were being published compared to YA anthologies for other genres. It was a moment in which I realized I could bring together my professional YA experience with my personal experience as a writer and my love of science fiction. Really, it was the “perfect storm” of opportunity.

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It’s true . . . there’s far more YA urban fantasy and paranormal short fiction out there. I hadn’t really thought about that before.

So, Futuredaze is the debut anthology from the Underwords Press, what surprised you the most about this project?

Yes, Futuredaze is the first official publication from Underwords Press, and there were a number of things that surprised me ranging from the amount of time it takes to set up the text to all of the nitty gritty details associated with selling a book…things that you don’t even know you need to do until it’s time to do them. However, the biggest surprise, or perhaps the most rewarding surprise, was having the first hand experience associated with seeing how an anthology’s character and its themes shift with the inclusion or removal of just one story. I guess this is my way of saying, “When dealing with an anthology, every story makes a big difference. Every piece counts.”

That’s really interesting. I’ve edited a few anthologies and one of my favourite things is ordering everything to create the dynamic (although I’ve recently been told that the majority of people don’t read anthologies in order – haha).

Okay, so I’m not going to make you pick favourites . . . but how about – which story affected you the most?

Thank you. It really would be impossible to pick my favorite because they are all my favorite story…for different reasons. That said, when I read “The Cleansing” by Mark Smith-Briggs I remember being really tired, and I had gone through a bunch of pieces that weren’t working out for the anthology. The next thing I knew, Mark’s story was in my hands and I had tears in my eyes.

However, every piece affected me in some way, which is exactly what I look for in a story. After all, during the editing process you have to read a story, over and over again, and again, and again. So, every story you choose has to be able to stand up against that kind of repetitive scrutiny without getting old or stale. I am glad to say that I still enjoy reading these pieces.

Are you working with schools at all to use the stories in high school English classes? 

I would personally love to see kids reading stories and poetry from Futuredaze in their high school English classes or library book clubs. However, we haven’t set up anything with schools or libraries yet. That is one of our next steps. We’re a very small, emerging publisher. There is so much to do and never enough time. If only time travel were possible!

If there are any schools or libraries that would like to contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

Do you hear that everyone? You never know, Erin, I have a lot of teacher/librarian types who read my blog.

Are you going to do more specifically themed anthologies like time travel or dystopian or steampunk or do you like the open call aspect?

I’ve been considering a few different options for the future. The beauty of science fiction is that there are so many rich and creatively flexible subgenres to choose from. Right now, I’m thinking primarily of themes that would focus the content a little more than we did with Futuredaze, but nothing has been decided yet. We’re hoping to make an announcement this spring that will answer this question and others…so stay tuned!

So, I’m guessing that means we’ll have to wait for a deadline for next anthology? (because after this, everyone will want to be in the next one!)

I would love to know this date, too! Again, we have some ideas for where we want to go with the next anthology, but nothing has been decided. However, we’re hoping to make some sort of announcement this spring. We’ll definitely let you know as soon as we have something to share.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about the anthology?

I think the most important thing to share is that Futuredaze is written for teens, but good storytelling goes beyond simple age requirements. So, while teens will feel like this anthology was made for them, adults will also enjoy it as well. A well-written YA book really can be for people of all ages.

Also, for people who live outside of the US, we have distribution agreements in Canada, the UK and Australia. So, you should be able to find either a printed edition or an eBook in any of those countries. The Kindle edition is available at all of the country specific Amazon web sites.

Thank you so much for the chance to do this interview.

Thanks, Erin!

Underwords Press publishes anthologies with a special focus on young adult science fiction and also features a literary blog that explores a wider variety of genres.

Underwords was originally founded in 2010 as a popular fiction blog that specialized in author interviews, book reviews, and all manner of fun literary exploits. Then in 2012, Underwords transitioned into a small press, changing its name to Underwords Press in order to find and publish new short science fiction for young adults. Our first title, Futuredaze: An Anthology of YA Science Fiction, is due out in February 2013 and has received considerable praise from the literary community. Underwords Press will publish one title per year in the Futuredaze series and is looking into expanding to add additional titles in 2013.

Our books are available through the standard publishing channels including brick and mortar bookstores and the major online retailers.

For more information, please contact Erin Underwood.

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Filed under Science Fiction, YA literature

Futuredaze Launches Tomorrow (or MGMless in MGM Land)

futuredaze-cover-finalThe print edition of FUTUREDAZE: an Anthology of YA Science Fiction launches tomorrow (Feb 12) and I am over the moon to be included in this book. Seriously, the whole experience has been a treat.

The ebooks have already been internationally launched and may be purchased HERE.

You can read the reviewer praise for the creative work HERE, but I would like to “big up” the editors themselves.

Erin Underwood was my main contact, but I’m sure co-editor Hannah Strom-Martin is just as professional and personable as Erin. Futuredaze is the first of an annual anthology series of YA Science Fiction (I will keep you posted on future deadlines), and I think this series will garner respect from the sci fi community.

The Underwords Press folks were timely, communicative, professional, and enthusiastic to deal with. I appreciated how they kept all the authors informed along the way, from sending advance reviews to sharing the cover with us before it went public. They are also distribution savvy, something a lot of small presses struggle with. They sent out copies of the books and checks when they said they would, and then emailed to confirm.

Really, every small press should be as pleasant to deal with. I’m hoping to post an interview with Erin Underwood this week, but she’s a bit busy.

I have no Middle Grade Monday post of my own today, but please do visit the folks below who do:

(MGM list from author Shannon Messenger’s blog)

– Mark Baker joins the MMGM fun with two features: THE BRONZE BOW, click HERE. And to see his review on THE DEAD MAN’S MINE, click HERE.
– Andrea Mack has chills for MAKING BOMBS FOR HITLER. Click HERE .
– Flash, the Feline Extraordinaire, (and Professional Mews to Cindy Strandvold) recommends THE ELLIE MCDOODLE series. Click HERE to see what that’s all about.
– Brennan and Meyrick Murphy are cheering for BUNNICULA. Click HERE to see what these two middle grade readers thought of it.
– Janet Smart is spotlighting THe WHIPPING BOY.  Click HERE to see why.
– Katie Fitzgerald sings praises for A SONG FOR BIJOU. Click HERE.
– Dorine White is raves about THE MAGICIAN’S TOWER. Click HERE.
– Michael Gettel-Gilmarten reminds us of FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER. Click HERE to see why he thinks this classic still holds up.
– Laurisa White Reyes is taking her turn at WONDER. Click HERE for her review.
– Barbara Watson highlights SUMMER AT FORSAKEN LAKE. Click HERE.
– Rosi Hollinbeck is featuring DESTINY, REWRITTEN–plus an ARC GIVEAWAY. Click HERE for details.
– Pam Torres: Click HERE.
– Michelle Isenhoff: Click HERE.
– Joanne Fritz: Click HERE.
– Karen Yingling: Click HERE to which ones she picked this week .
– The Mundie Moms are always part of the MMGM fun (YAY!). Click HERE to see their newest recommendations.
~     ~     ~

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Filed under Science Fiction, short fiction, YA literature

Upcoming Deadlines for Deadline Centric Writers

I’m a fan of deadlines. If you have to set your own hours and organize your own day, you might be a fan of deadlines as well. Lately, I’ve been using calls for themed anthologies as deadlines for producing short stories.

I don’t enter a lot of contests (other than my publisher sending my published books out). I prefer to put my energies toward submitting for publication. But this Writer’s Digest contest seems like a no-brainer to me:

Writer’s Digest “Dear Lucky Agent” Contest

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First off, I love that they call it “lucky agent” instead of lucky writer. 🙂

Second off, it’s completely free to enter. And easy.

This is a recurring online contest with agent judges. The details of each contest are essentially the same, but the genres change. This round the focus is on science fiction (adults or teens) or any kind of young adult novel.

Top 3 winners get a critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of work by the agent judge (Victoria Marini). Apparently in a previous Lucky Agent contest the agent judge signed one of the winners. Getting agents to read your work is always a great thing. Getting them to critique it is GOLD.

Deadline: January 31, 2013

Their requirements are simple. You make 2 social media posts to promote it, and then email in the first 200 words of your novel. What have you got to lose?

(on a side note, this was posted on Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents Blog, which I suggest subscribing to for information on literary agents, literary agencies, query letters, etc. I like reading his agent profiles.)

Spellbound Children’s Fantasy eZine

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If you write for a slightly younger audience (8-12 yrs), I just discovered this fantasy eZine (they were a print mag for years and now relaunched). They publish themed magazines and the theme for their summer 2013 issue is: DRAGONS.

Since I’ve not written a short story with dragons in it, I’ve accepted this challenge. HERE are the guidelines. This is a paying magazine. We like that.

Deadline for Summer 2013 Dragon issue: March 31.

Always remember if you submit to a magazine or anthology, READ the previous magazine or work by that publisher to see if your work is a match.

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Filed under Calls for Submission, contests, writing life, YA literature

Middle Grade Mondays: Live from the ALA Midwinter Conference

This is my first time at the ALA conference and for someone who is easily over-stimulated, it’s quite overwhelming. And this isn’t even their big one. Imagine booth upon booth of book displays for the latest award-winners, reviewer picks, and up-and-coming releases (with a definite slant towards children and young adult literature). Book-lover / educator paradise.

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I had to stay focused or I would have imploded, so my tour of the publishers’ booths was primarily geared toward the upper middle grade reader, especially since I have to create a reading list for an up-and-coming class I’m teaching.

ARCS are Us

ARCS are us!

Below is a short list of some of the books I am excited about and I will post more later this week. I’ll list a variety – some literary fiction, genre fiction, non-fiction.

A few of the books I picked are young YA (generally 12+ on the ARC stats) with content that the publishers said would be “all right” for advanced MG readers.

Since I have no shelf-space at home, I might do a few ARC giveaways. If you’re lucky.

1) PARCHED by Melanie Crowder (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

IMG_0512The poster for this debut release immediately caught my attention. Set in the near future, it’s described as “very real,” not dystopian or post-apocalyptic, but “straight-up apocalyptic.” A world teetering on the brink tips into devastation.

It’s a story told from three points of view about a girl, a boy, and a dog struggling to survive in a parched and barren land.

Sarel knows which tree roots reach down deep to pools of precious water. But now she must learn how to keep herself and her dogs alive. She knows they can’t last long without water—and she knows, too, that a boy is coming; a boy with the water song inside him.

Musa’s talent for finding water got him kidnapped by brutal men, yet he’s escaped, running away across the thirsty land that nearly claims his life. Sarel, Musa, and the dogs come together in what might be their last hope of survival.

This sounds like a fantastic thought-provoking novel with curriculum tie-ins. I WISH I had a copy of this one to give away, but alas, they had no ARCS there.

IMG_05302) MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE by Annabel Pitcher (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

This one is not brand new, but it’s by a British author and was just published in the US in August. More importantly, I had never heard about it and the publisher’s rep said if she could pick ONE book for me to add to my MG list, this would be the one. She recommends at least 1/2 box off tissues on hand if you pick it up.

From the publisher:

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

After the glowing recommendation I received from the rep, I have indeed added this to my student’s reading list.

3) CLOCKWORK SCARAB – by Colleen Gleason (Chronicle Books, 2013)

Clockswork ScarabI feel a bit giddy being able to post this one, as there was a bit of a buzz around it and the fantastic cover is brand new – you can’t even find an image online. It’s a photo of a real bug re-imagined. (for some reason winged creatures were the trend on covers – lots of moths and butterflies).

This one is on the tweens and up end of things and the concept sounds tantalizing: the half-sister of Bram Stoker and niece of Sherlock Holmes team up to solve a murder mystery in a steam-punk London.

Oh, yeah.

from GoodReads:

An unlikely pair, the fierce Evaline Stoker and logical Mina Holmes must follow in the footsteps of their infamous families—Miss Holmes has inherited her Uncle Sherlock’s keen investigative skills, while Miss Stoker has accepted her family calling as a hunter of the undead. The partners must find a way to work together, while navigating the advances of a strange yet handsome American, a clever Scotland Yard investigator, and a cunning thief, to solve the mystery of the clockwork scarabs . . . Steeped in Egyptian mythology and literary references, with a surprising time travel twist and compelling romantic triangles, Colleen Gleason has crafted a fast-paced and romantic debut young adult novel.

The fact that it has a “love triangle” screams YA, but the publisher said the pace and intrigue will hold the interest of younger readers not interested in romance.

(and I DO have an ARC … we’ll see if I can part with it)

More from the ALA Winter Conference to come (today is the final day).

In the meantime, please check out other Middle Grade Monday posts today at Shannon Messenger’s Blog.

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cruising for books at ALA

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Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, YA literature