Monday, June 20, 2011

Best Ever!

Currently Reading: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I've been to a lot of writers conferences, but last week I had the best experience ever.

I went to the Writers and Illustrators for Young Readers conference in Salt Lake and participated in a weeklong workshop with one of my favorite authors, Martine Leavitt.

She is the author of Keturah and Lord Death, which happens to be one of the best books ever written. I may be biased, but that book resonated with me like no other book ever has.

Martine's class was phenomenal. I feel like I just got a one week crash course in MFA level creative writing. We learned so much, my mind is still spinning trying to figure out how to incorporate it all into my work in progress. She did an excellent job of keeping the attitude positive while still helping us find ways to improve our writing.

The other participants in the class were also amazing writers and I learned a ton from them as well.

Now, if only I could figure out my main characters concrete object of desire...

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Song of the day: "In the Middle" ~Jimmy Eat World

So, my new friend, Jonene Fickland Meme'd me. I really have no idea what that means, but I guess I'm supposed to answer a few awkward questions about myself, and then pass it on.

Not wanting to look like a party pooper, here goes:

If you could go back in time and relive one moment, what would it be?
My first kiss. I wish I would have paid more attention to how I felt at the time--it would help me with my writing. I don't have a great memory, and I can't even remember for sure who it was with. I think it was this guy named Richard I sort of "went" with when I lived in London. Or maybe it was that other guy. Crap!

If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?
I'm going to pass on all the heavy stuff and go with the time I fell flat on my face in front of my entire ward at church. I was walking up to sing in the choir, and wham, front and center in front of everyone. Embarrassing.

What movie/TV character do you most resemble in personality?
Easy. Temperance "Bones" Brennan in the TV show "Bones." Not so much the genius part, but the lack of social skills and the inability to pick up on social subtleties, and her frank and straightforward way of thinking and speaking. I get into a lot of trouble when I talk to people.

If you could push one person off a cliff and get away with it, who would it be?
Jacob Black. And if he takes Renesmee with him--even better.

Name one habit you want to change in yourself.
I wish I had better people skills.

Describe yourself in one word.

Describe the person who named you in this Meme in one word.

Why do you blog, in one sentence?
Because they tell me I have to if I want to get published. (Remember the lazy part?)

Name at least three people to send the Meme to, and then inform them.

Brooke: Lining the Clouds With Silver

Yamile: The Che Boricuas

Taffy: Taffy's Writings

Jen: Jen's Tale

Monday, June 6, 2011

Too Close to the Edge?

Currently Reading: Fourteen first-20-pages for everyone in the Martine Leavitt workshop next week. Lots of critiquing to do. 

Because of the recent article in the wall street journal by Meghan Cox Gurdon, here, and Robison Wells excellent response to that article, here, I've decided to re-post a blog I wrote last year for the Utah Children's Writers website. 

There has been a lot of talk lately about “edgy” young-adult literature.  Read the blurbs about what many agents are looking for and it will include the word “edgy” or "dark."  Manuscripts are rejected because they aren’t “edgy” enough.

Edgy is generally defined as books that push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.  One definition said that there are no forbidden subjects in edgy young-adult fiction, but they are “written with sensitivity and care, not gratuitously.”

Critics opposed to edgy YA argue that the novels encourage destructive or immoral behavior.  

Those in favor claim that fictional portrayals of teens successfully addressing difficult situations and confronting social issues helps readers deal with real-life challenges.

One book that recently caught my eye is about a teenage girl who falls in love with a boy from her apartment building.  The girl’s feelings for the boy become confused when she discovers that he is actually a girl who has had a sex change.

Is that edgy?  Is it gratuitous?  Or does it help teens confront real-life challenges?  How many teens will really have to face that kind of situation?

Another recent book is written entirely in text message lingo and deals with a group of teenage girls who discuss boys, gossip, sex, clothes and getting drunk.  A book geared for grades 8-10.

One reader left her comment regarding this book on Amazon:  “This book offends me and makes me ashamed to be a teenage girl…is this what people think we’re like?  AHHH.  No.”

Are we underestimating our youth when we push edgy too far?  Are we selling the rising generation short when we appeal to the lowest common denominator?

Many books that were once considered too edgy are now taught in our schools.  Lord of the Flies, The Outsiders, and Speak.  What’s the difference?  What makes these books worthy of study?

What is the boundary between “edgy” and “trashy”?  Where is the line for taboo subject matter?  Do we compromise ourselves as authors when we cross those lines simply for the chance to make money or get our work published?

There are many books for YA's that deal with dark subject matter in a positive and inspiring way. I made my teenage son read "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher because it dealt with the reality of suicide in a way that I felt sent the message I want my son to learn: You never know how unkind words might affect the life of another person, and suicide is not the answer.

All teens deal with challenges, heartache, and a huge range of deep, serious, emotional issues.  It seems to me that books that actually help them cope with these “real-life challenges” are uplifting, not gratuitous, and carry a message of safety and hope.  They stretch the teenage mind into a positive, new way of thinking that inspires them to want to be better, rather than simply shock and tantalize the senses.

What do you think?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Writer's Whiplash

Quote of the Day: "You can't stay young forever ... but you can always be immature." I don't know where this is from, but it pretty much sums up my life.

Trying to follow all the "rules" of writing is like being in a constant state of whiplash. I go to the conferences, I read the books, I follow the blogs. Can't all those agenty/publishy people out there just come up with one set of guidelines they can all agree on?

So far, this is what I've learned:

Show don't tell, unless your showing with physical body language, then that's also telling and cliche, or when doing internal thoughts in which telling is ok as long it's not too tell-y.

Don't use filter words because they distance the reader and it's lazy writing, better to use questions, but don't use questions because it's lazy writing.

Make sure that all the dialogue is essential to the forwarding of the plot, but don't actually use too much dialogue to let the story unfold, it breaks up the plot.


Bottom Line:

There is a infinite number of personal preferences out there. You can never make everyone happy. Write the story that makes you happy--and write is as well as you possibly can.

As Sara Megibow explained at the 2011 LDStorymakers Conference: Yes, there are a million rules, break them or not, it's your choice. The only thing that matters is if it is well written.