Sunday, August 25, 2013

Get Out of Town Without Going Too Far

Have you ever just wanted to get out of town? Leave for a week, unplanned, and wish that everything was the same when you returned, meaning you didn’t lose your job, your dog managed to survive in your absence, the bills were paid, the food didn’t spoil and there was no missing persons report in your name?

Yeah, me too.

Taking a step back from it all is vital. In the spirit of that sentiment, I've planned two whole vacations this week. Hotels, attractions, restaurants, travel… everything except making the actual bookings. One to Walt Disney World/Universal Studios and one to London. The depressing, sad, torturous (no exaggeration) thing is: I will not be taking said vacation until October 2014. Lots of unnecessary explanation why, but trust me in saying that 14 months is just too far away.

So, I’ve taken to "getting out of town" (but not really) in other ways, on rare and random days off. Here are some ways I’ve escaped, without really going too far.

1.       Explore a part of the city/town/countryside where you’ve never been
You know that place you’ve always wanted to go but still haven’t? (That museum, park, shopping area, restaurant, even a monument?) Yeah, that one. Go. Now. (Or at least soon.) Last month, my parents came into town and took my brothers, boyfriend and I to the canal. I’ve heard whispers of such a place, but experiencing it is another thing entirely. A staircase down and a whole new world of calm waters, grassy knolls and the barrier of architectured apartments equals a whole new take on Indianapolis.

2.       Venture into a book
Some of the most fantastical places can be visited, not by traveling the world, but by simply opening the pages of a book. [Tweet that?]

3.       Try something new
Take a course. (Or better yet, teach one!) Pick up a new hobby. It can be something adventurous like rock climbing. Or, you could take it easy with knitting. You know how you always go to the same stores and eat at the same restaurants? Well, try something different this week. Step into that eccentric looking shop. Try Thai, Greek or Brazilian. Unless you’re from Farmland, population 93, there’s no way you’ve experienced everything there is to offer in the spaces around you.

Yeah, these aren’t radical ideas. But I forget them every now and then, so I figured maybe others do as well. If you’re a little stuck or bored of the ho-humdrumness of your everyday life and feel the need to escape, but can't, just change it up a bit. Drive a different route. Experience a new genre. Escape within the realms of your own life. Go just far enough to gain another perspective and relax and relish in the new view.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Writing Tips with a YA Twist

Writing tips are everywhere. Writing advice, courses, webinars, everything you can imagine is floating out there on the interwebs. Not all of it is helpful. But what I almost always find valuable are quotations from the modern and classic masters. Some I’ve read before, but usually I stumble on new ones too, which help freshen my mindset and think of things differently. I’ve taken some helpful, logical, maybe obvious but always inspirational quotes (that you may or may not have already read somewhere) and I’ve added my own YA-themed commentary, just to give them that extra UMPH!

“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea forever.” –Will Self

I saw a girl in a used bookstore once. She was no more than thirteen, but was chatting confidently with the workers, wearing a black skirt, boots and had a funky bag. I immediately wanted to pick her up and plunk her down in a dark yet quirky YA story. She was so unique; I wanted to craft a story around her. I wasn’t two steps out the door before I was tweeting about her. But, I failed to make a note (whether in notebook or phone) about the intricacies about why she was so interesting. Next time, you can be sure I’ll write it down.

“If you can tell stories, create characters, devise incidents, and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.” –W. Somerset Maugham

One word: Twilight. No, I jest! But seriously, stories aren’t about the words as much as they are about the characters, their relationships and their actions. What do I remember about the Twilight series (having read it almost 5 years ago)? I don’t remember how many times Stephenie Meyer wrote the word “eye.” (Though I do know it was a LOT.) But I do remember the fierceness which Edward and Jacob both loved and wanted Bella. I remember Bella standing up for those she loved. In the end, I remembered that Meyer is a great storyteller.

“If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people.” –Virginia Woolf

Writing YA is a great way to bare that misunderstood, acne-riddled, lonely teenage soul. Dive into the depth of your own secrets. Let fear take over your heart then put it all on the page. Tapping into your own angsty adolescence might just be the catalyst to discovering the truth of human emotion and motivation. And if not, at least you can say you tried.

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” –Jonathan Franzen

So log off Facebook. Close out Twitter and Tumblr. Get off Google and Goodreads. Stop reading that blog—wait, after you finish this, please… But, unless you’re researching (which does not include Wikipedia) the internet is the black hole in which word count goals are lost. Great intentions or not, open that browser and your productivity levels will plunge like an angel falling from the sky.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Basically, less is more. People often think that editing is about fixing and adding and explaining. But it’s not; it’s about paring down the story to the bare essentials. It’s about leaving just want is needed to tell the story, tell it well, and get out. Don’t bog down the reader with conversations about homework, clothing, dinner dates, study sessions, basic teenage day-to-day life, unless it is absolutely (underlined and highlighted) essential to the story.

“If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” –Edgar Rice Burroughs

Therefore, you must write. Daily. A lot. As much as you can get down. Just keeping going. Don’t stop! And someday, the words may be good. Great, even. And not only because the more words you have, the more the odds are in your favor, but the more words you’ve written, the more experience you have as well.
May the odds be ever in your favor! (I promise I didn’t select that last quote just so I could say that. Mostly.)

Now, get writing!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

YA All the Way

I read teen 99% of the time. I used to mix it up more, but around the start of 2013, I realized that since my passion is YA, then I really shouldn’t make time for much else. Excluding the occasional JK Rowling experiment, Neil Gaiman bestseller or Young Reader stand-out (Riordan, Lowry, etc.), I strictly read YA fiction.

I write YA 99% of the time. I have on the rare occasion, written short stories with a more personal feel that would be considered NA (New Adult, an up-and-coming genre), but that’s usually to get out some frustration. Then I move back to my teen characters.

So for the most part (99.9%), it’s YA all the way for me.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate adult or kids fiction. I do. There are outstanding, worthy books in all genres. But YA is my passion and therefore it’s my focus. This is what I believe, but sometimes I have problems sharing it.

Like, a few months ago when I showed a mother and her 20-something daughter to the teen section at the bookstore (don’t worry, it’s my job). The mother commented that teen didn’t seem appropriate for her daughter any more since she was in her 20s. I didn’t want to alienate the mother, but I didn’t want to hang the daughter out to dry. So I mentioned that I will occasionally pick up a YA novel. (Occasionally? Ha. Try a couple a week.) Then I left them to browse (and argue) on their own. Now, I look back and think, why did I not tell the truth? I can hide behind the fact that I was on-the-job and didn’t want to upset the mother. But isn’t it the 20-something daughter I should be connecting with here, not her mother? Yeah, it should have been.

Or, when a few months before that, a customer walked up to me at the service desk and whispered: "Where is the teen section?" She glanced around, like all the adults in the vicinity were going to point and scream: SHAME! So I said, not loudly but not in a whisper, that I’d show her the way. As we were walking, the customer told me she was embarrassed to admit that she was reading (and enjoying!) a specific teen series. She was probably 30, maybe 35. I pointed out that she’s not the only one, bringing up the popularity of Hunger Games. But why didn’t I take it a step further and say: “It’s okay, I read teen books.” Because then this customer’s opinion of me would have changed, right? She’s judging herself for reading teen, so what’s stopping her from judging me?

Reflecting on these experiences, I wonder what’s stopping me from admitting my passion for YA to everyone. My family knows it. My boyfriend knows it. Friends know it. Some co-workers. It’s harder to admit to co-workers at the bank versus the bookstore. At the bookstore I’m not the only one (can you believe my male GM is a YA fan?). At the bank, I’m probably the only one who reads more than a couple books a year. But my parent’s friends, extended family, customers, strangers? Here’s where I have a problem admitting my passion for YA.

But, I’m going to work on that. And it starts right here, right now. (Cue getting that song stuck in my head.)

So here it is world:

I believe that teen books aren’t just for teens. They are for adults (men and women) too and pretty much anyone over the age of 13. But there’s no ceiling. Turning 20 doesn’t mean we have to graduate to adult fiction. Nor is adult fiction superior. (But that’s another fight/blog post entirely.)

I am YA all the way.

Yeah, I said it. Judge me. Ignore me. However, I prefer that you: Join me.

(Or at least give YA a chance.)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

YA Beach Blast: Six Authors in Cincy!

When I travel for a book signing, it’s always been for just one author. But yesterday I journeyed to Cincinnati to see six – count ‘em—SIX YA authors, all at one place. All sitting at the same table. And it was glorious.

From top left:
Liz Coley, author of Pretty Girl-13
Mindee Arnett, author of The Nightmare Affair and upcoming Avalon
Julie Kagawa, author of the Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series

Saundra Mitchell, author of The Elementals and editor of Defy the Dark
Kristina McBride, author of One Moment and The Tension of Opposites
Aprilynne Pike, author of the Wings series, the new Earthbound series and Life After Theft

Here are some fancy pointers they offered throughout the Q&A:
On Writing Time

Show up at the same every day. You can’t wait for the muse. –Mindee Arnett

Before you stop writing for the day, start the next chapter or scene so it’s easier to dive back in tomorrow. –Kristina McBride

Find ways to make time. And don’t apologize for your writing time. –Aprilynne Pike

On Failure

Don’t give up. Sometimes the book you think is going to make it doesn’t. –Julie Kagawa

If I’m struggling with a project, sometimes starting a new one will bring me back to the other one and help solve those issues. –Kristina McBride

If I can summarize the plot in 2-3 paragraphs, then I can write the book. But if I can’t, I won’t even start. –Mindee Arnett

It wasn’t my first full manuscript or my second that got me my agent. It was at least my fourth. And I’ve lost count how many manuscripts I’ve finished overall. –Liz Coley

On Dialogue

I always attempt to Joss Whedon my dialogue. –Mindee Arnett

I was a screenwriter for 15 years, so I try to propel the story with dialogue from the beginning. –Saundra Mitchell

When writing dialogue, it’s not just about the words the character is speaking, but also what’s going on in between the lines. The character’s actions and gestures are a factor too. –Julie Kagawa

On the Everything Else

There’s a lot of non-writing time that goes into being an author. The business of writing (answering e-mails to agents and editors, interacting on social media, etc.) takes up a lot of time. It’s a job in itself. –Aprilynne Pike 

Reviews are not for authors, they are for readers. –Aprilynne Pike (in the context of Goodreads and negative reviews in general)

A surprising aspect of being a writer is the way people interact online (they aren’t always the nicest), which is why I tweet about soup. –Saundra Mitchell

The authors were accommodating, down-to-earth and beyond amazing. I added six signed books to my shelf (don’t worry I won’t bog down the post with pictures...though I’m tempted). I’ve heard this is an annual thing, so you can count on my being there next summer. For shore!


DISCLAIMER: This post in an unofficial account of the YA Beach Blast event with the aforementioned authors on August 3, 2013 at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, OH. The views that I present in this article are my interpretations of the event and are not direct quotations of the author’s comments. These paraphrases do not necessarily represent the opinions of these authors or their publishers.