Monday, September 29, 2008

Literary Analysis and Lippstick


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No, that's not a typo.
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Being a senior with 1.6 bazillion honors classes and 3.4 million clubs, I can't watch TV and hope to get into college (my GPA is directly correspondent to hours of TV watched... negatively.) I started watching Mad Men season one over the summer, but couldn't keep up with it during the school year. Weep, weep.
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But I found Basket of Kisses.
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Basket of Kisses (http://www.lippsisters.com/) is becoming my favorite blog. Run by the two Lipp sisters, it's a Mad Men fan's dream. There's constant reporting on where the stars of the show are, who's getting mentioned, what's going on, and best of all, detailed and personal analysis of what the characters mean and what the show is trying to say.
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I love it.
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As someone who loves to over-analysis, I think the Lipp sisters and their friends are top-notch at critiquing and seeing into deeper themes of this show. They're fun, they're edgy, they're insightful: I can go on for hours. They keep me connected to a show I can't watch.
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Why am I posting about it here? Whether you like the show or not, run over to BoK and check out how they analyze scenes. It's the perfect example if you're trying to write literary criticism and sell it to a magazine, and you feel a heck of a lot smarter once you understand the deeper themes of the show that took the Emmy for Best Drama.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bookshelf: Screenwriting for Teens


Screenwriting for Teens by Christina Hamlett
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Though I love movies, I've never considered writing for screen. But Screenwriting for Teens is not only a terrific guide for every screenie teen, but a good book to read for any writer. Screenwriting covers everything from genre definitions (and examples!) to dialogue rules, formatting guidelines and finance notes. Perfect for a teen's attention span, each chapter is only 2 pages long and covers a different concept (100 in all) of screenwriting basics.
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This book is fun and thought-provoking at the same time. I loved all the movie references (I've seen almost all of them!) and have added Moonstruck and Laura to my To-Be-Watched list. But I also kept thinking about my Novel-in-Progress, and how Christina's advice about conflict and character-building needed to be worked into my book. This unusual teen-centered "textbook" (not textbook-boring at all) belongs on your bookshelf if you are interested in writing and especially if you want to be a screenwriter.

Next Week: Ally Carter!


Yup.

Ally Carter, the New York Times bestselling author of the Gallagher Girls series, whose I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You has been optioned by Walden Media, who is represented by the awesome Kristen Nelson of Pub Rants (www.pubrants.blogspot.com), is stopping by here next week.

Freak out.

Ally will be talking about her own espionage, how she reacted to the NYT news and her advice for us teen writers. I can't wait, you can't wait, it's a state of perpetual agitation. Next Saturday: remember.

WORD: Norah Jones Rainy Soup Days

Once in many whiles, you have those Norah Jones Rainy Soup Days. When it's raining, and you need chicken noodle, and you're listening to Come Away With Me and staring at a massive amount of homework, and somehow you are expected to write something.
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Man.
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I've learned bunches as a teen writer, but this whole writing inspite of life bit is still sinking in. Every Saturday when I want to finish This Book Isn't Fat, It's Fabulous (Nina Beck!) or when I get scared of touching my AP Euro textbook, writing becomes an option and not a checkbox. Every Saturday, every Sunday, everyday is a test of how much I'm committed to writing.
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Scared yet?
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The reason I don't write on Days-Like-Those isn't because I can't or don't have time to, but because I've forgotten why I'd write in the first place. Success acts like white-out sometimes: you forget why you're working so hard. So:
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1. Get competitive. I respect Christopher Paolini as a human being and as someone who accomplished a great deal in his teen years (and even now.) Still, I cannot stop writing until my book sales kick his into the clearance table. It's a principle.
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2. Be inspired. I love inspirational self-help. Head for the Teen Non-Fiction section of your bookstore and start reading the stories of those teens who started companies, sold thousands of books, became Olympic athletes. Make yourself realize what happens at the end of the tunnel.
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3. Write it, dork. You are a writer. Try writing down what you want from your writing. Now write it again. Write it every day in your diary. What will happen with that kind of focus? I have no idea, but something will.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The One-Month Checker Upper

So, school's been going on for about a month. Grades are decent, stress is maximizing, but how's your writing? My book was on standstill for a good two weeks before my laptop was returned, and I'm still working slowly on freelancing. However, here are some questions to ask yourself.
  1. Where am I on my Long-Term Goals list?
  2. What short-term piece (article, short story, poem, essay) am I writing right now?
  3. When was the last time I got published?
  4. What do I have due to editors?
  5. What's a new market I've been trying to break into and when's their next deadline?

There's no report card for writing except for your resume, and resumes don't usually call to make sure you've done your homework. Keep yourself up to task.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Linking You Up!

Carol brought up something I've been meaning to blog about. I'm always up for a link exchange with blogs or websites, provided you're somewhat connected to either teens, books, publishing and writing or libraries. Personal about-me blogs are okay if you talk about books quite a bit, but I'm not crazy about me-and-my-boyfriend-last-night stuff. That's for Facebook.

But if you're a lit lover, teen lover, pub lover: please email me or comment! I've got a lovely blogroll going and will soon be breaking it down in to publishing blogs, review blogs and other details.

Pema wrote about a very relevant topic (time management for writers) here: http://thepemapad.freehostia.com/index.php?id=20

The Story Siren reviewed a book known to most Innovative readers (Queen Geek Social Club) here: http://www.thestorysiren.com/2008/09/queen-geek-social-club.html. I'll be reviewing Prom Queen Geeks sometime next week.

Nannette blogged about the difference between "young new writers" and "new writers" over at her blog: http://zinewriter.blogspot.com/2008/09/new-old-writers.html

Nicole at WORD for Teens is always worth a good read at www.wordforteens.blogspot.com.

And in celebration of the upcoming Banned Book Week, Guys Lit Wire spotlights flaming bookmarks http://guyslitwire.blogspot.com/2008/09/burning-bookmarks.html.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Wednesday Wonderfully Spent with Brooke Taylor

It's Wednesday!

Whether you're baking cookies as a bona fide home-schooler, stuck in class like the rest of us or even stuck behind the desk, the middle of the week can sometimes have an I'm-stuck feeling. However, it's Innovative to the rescue. Today we're chilling with Brooke Taylor, the author of the superfantasticamazing Undone that I reviewed Monday.

INN: Where did you find the idea for Undone?
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BT: The very first hint of a story came after I saw a license plate that read “CCCCCF8” which took me a minute to translate to Seize Fate. F8 had a gaming feel to it and soon my main character Serena came to life, followed very quickly by her more outspoken best friend, Kori. The two of them hijacked the story and slowly but surely told me everything.
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INN: Were you crazy and wild as a teenager, or more of a straight-roader?
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BT: I was a little of both. I did some crazy things, but there were many more things I just would never do. It’s funny, you leave your little bubble called high school and you meet people whether at college or just in life and you start to realize that maybe you weren’t so wild or maybe you weren’t so straight-laced. The spectrum is pretty wide; there will always be someone who is crazier or more reserved, which is why it is important to just be true to yourself.
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INN: Secrets and complicated identities are a large part of Undone. Did you know most of the hidden stories when you started writing the book, or did many just pop up as you wrote?
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BT: I didn’t know anything. It took several revisions before I learned everything, and I’m sure both Serena and Kori still have some secrets even I don’t know. Sometimes when I’d finish a chapter, I knew something was missing. When I’d finally figure those things out, I would also understand why I didn’t know them upfront. Creating characters is just like meeting new people—sometimes you have TMI moments and other times you have to be patient and earn their trust.
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INN: If Undone had a theme song, what would it be and why?
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BT: Burning Bright by Shinedown was kind of an unofficial theme song. The lyrics really capture the girls and their struggles with who they are. The song is very powerful. Towards the end of writing Undone, I wasn’t even able to listen to it because it would bring tears to my eyes.
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INN: What's up next in your writing career?
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BT: I’m working on two new YA projects. Both have the same qualities that Undone has—they are realistic, emotional, character driven stories. I hope to be able to share more about them very soon!
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INN: Any advice for teen writers?
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BT: My best advice is to write what you would want to read and don’t let anyone change your voice.
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Thank you so much, Brooke!
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Find out more about Brooke at www.brooketaylorbooks.com. And get off your hineys and read this book! Have a wonderful Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

If I Had To Give Some Advice...

Remember Behind the Blog two weeks ago? I asked all ten reviewers to give their advice to both teen and "normal" (normal? or simply senile?) reviewers, and here's a digest of what they said.

Don't write a review with the mindset of "I'm writing a review." Write it with the mindset of "I'm writing my thoughts of this book." Your personal thoughts are the unique thing that only you have to offer. It's what makes you different from all the other reviewers out there. - Miss Erin, www.misserinmarie.blogspot.com

Read whatever you like. It doesn't have to come from a reviewing program, agent, or publisher; it came be from your library. All that matters is that it's a book. - The Book Muncher, www.thebookmuncher.blogspot.com

Just because nobody's commenting or you think nobody's reading your blog doesn't mean you should stop blogging. Somebody will find you and somebody will appreciate your opinion - or argue with you over it. Never give up!.. [and] don't be afraid to have fun - use crazy smilies like *-* and spruce your site up. - Nicole from WORD for Teens, www.wordforteens.blogspot.com

Reviewing anything is entirely subjective, and if the reviewer communicates his or her opinion clearly, that's all you can ask. - Alex Bledsoe, Guys Lit Wire www.guyslitwire.blogspot.com

You only need two things: honesty about what your reviewing, and regular, consistent posting. - Justin, Guys Lit Wire www.guyslitwire.blogspot.com

If you want to review books for guys, consider nonfiction. - Edward, Guys Lit Wire www.guyslitwire.blogspot.com

Be honest. Don't be mean but say what you think, and WHY... Be respectful, and fearless, and read as much as you can of all kinds of things. - David, Guys Lit Wire www.guyslitwire.blogspot.com

Try to decide who you want to write for: do you want to be professional or more casual? I like to write a review like I’m talking to my best friend or my sister. - Kristi, The Story Siren www.thestorysiren.com
... if you want some cheap advice from me anyway, allow me to say this: Never make your blog your top priority. It's not. Real life is. Never fall behind on that. - Steph, Reviewer X www.reviewerx.blogspot.com

Be honest. Be professional. Be positive. Read a little bit of everything, and re-read old favorites every once in a while. Read for fun, for research, and for the love of a good book. - Little Willow, www.slayground.livejournal.com

Monday, September 22, 2008

An Undone Review


Have you seen the little Best Books of 2008 (So Far) thingy on the bottom right corner of the blog? There are four books on there. I've read at least a hundred, if not two hundred, books this year. So that's between 2%-4% of what I've read this year. One of those four books is by E. Lockhart; the competition is stiff. (Thirteen Reasons Why would have made it, but it was published in 2007. More on that later.)
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Undone went straight on that list.
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Quick summary: Serena and Kori are best friends with a punk-style BFF. When Kori is taken from Serena, Serena's left with pieces to fill and questions to ask, not only about their own relationship but Serena's relationship to the world.
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This blew my mind.
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1. The complexity of friendship. Brooke describes such a believable friendship, because it's not cardboard. The way that Kori and Serena relate, their behavior: it's so realistic, and yet you want to read more and more.
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2. You love both of them. I hate stories about normal-girl-transformed-by-glam-BFF. Why? I want to hear it from the BFF perspective, not the normal person. But Serena is the best possible narrator for this book. She's not mousy or ordinary, although Kori does transform her life.
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3. A sensational story without sensationalism. If this book had been done as a scandalous druggie tale, or a carpe-diem warning, it would have stunk. But Undone is a story that strikes a chord in you without overdoing it, in any way. It's also a quiet story, which could be really boring, but it's not.
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4. You love the characters. The guy who drives the fateful car, Anthony (o Anthony, Anthony!), Serena, Kori, Serena's mom, Kori's mysterious friend (I don't want to get his name wrong)... you love them. They're imperfect, they all have their own stories, they're so dang well written. And funny, and heartbreaking, and absolutely insane.
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I'm super, super psyched to host Brooke here on Wednesday to hear about how Undone started and what's she up to next. Read this book. You'll read it fast.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bookshelf: Talking with Beth Fehlbaum

Beth Fehlbaum drew on her experience working with abused children as an English teacher in writing Courage in Patience to give hope to survivors of abuse. She is an English teacher with an M.Ed. and lives in East Texas. - back cover, Courage in Patience
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INN: What inspired you to write Courage in Patience?
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BF: I am an English teacher and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was working through dealing with my growing-up-years, and I wrote a lot as a way of processing it. I kept showing my short stories and poems to a friend of mine, and he suggested that I channel my creative energy into writing a novel. I started and stopped for about four months, then I sat down and got serious about it, and the story came out.
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By the way, Courage in Patience is NOT an autobiography. It is a fictional account of a teen girl's initial foray into recovery from sexual abuse, and the building of her relationship with her biological father, who she had never known until she was placed with him and her stepmother (who happens to be an English teacher), after being taken from her mom and stepdad.
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INN: How did you break into publishing?
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BF: By the time I finished writing Courage in Patience, I felt that I had a story that could inspire hope in others who had experienced abuse. I strongly committed myself to (a) finding an agent and (b) querying independent publishers that did not require an author to be agented.
I submitted the first two chapters of Courage in Patience to Kunati Books, an independent publisher based in Canada, in April, 2007.
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I found my agent, Rachel Dowen of Talcott Notch Literary Services, around the same time, and formally signed with her in June, 2007. In August, 2007, James McKinnon, my editor at Kunati, contacted me and asked for the remainder of my manuscript. November, 2007, Kunati offered to buy my book. Rachel negotiated my contract and I FedExed it back to Kunati the Saturday before Christmas, 2007. It's been a whirlwind adventure since then! Courage in Patience releases on September 1, 2008. It's already available for sale on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Borders, too.
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INN: What's the strangest thing that's happened to you as a writer?
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BF: I get a lot of letters/messages from people online. The other day, a guy wrote to me and told me he wanted to see what I look like, "as long as I didn't look like Quasimodo" -- and he also wanted to know where he could read excerpts of my book.
I thought that was kind of funny-- the request to see what I look like.
I wrote him back and told him he could see Chapter 1 of my book on my MySpace page and on my Blogspot page, that there is a picture of me on my Blogspot page, and that my "Quasimodo hump" didn't show in the picture. He wrote back and told me that as long as I was able to walk upright, that was enough for him.
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I thought, "Huh?"
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He was really nice; he was very supportive and complimentary of my work; it was just a funny thing to say, I thought.
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INN: Who are your favorite contemporary authors?
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BF: This list is by no means exclusive, but looking around my writing room right now, I see: Chris Crutcher (I have read all his novels, but my favorite of his is Ironman, because he graciously allowed me to integrate elements of it into Courage in Patience), Mark Spragg (An Unfinished Life; The Fruit of Stone), Joyce McDonald (Swallowing Stones), Sherman Alexie (The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian; The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven; Ten Little Indians), David Sedaris (I have everything he's written but I'm currently reading his latest, When You are Engulfed in Flames), Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft); Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird); Deepak Chopra (How to Know God), William Sloane Coffin (Credo), and Al Franken (The Truth- With Jokes).
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INN: If you could have dinner with three historical people (literary, political, scientific, or simply odd), who would they be and what would you talk about?
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BF: I'd love to meet Chris Crutcher, because he has been such an influence on my writing. It was in reading his book, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, that I realized there was an audience for the stories inside of me.
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I'd love to sit down with George W. Bush and tell him to his face how much I am looking forward to his being out of office, to our country being able to rebuild its reputation in the international community when an idiot is no longer in charge.
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I'd also like to sit down with some of my long-dead ancestors, to show them a crystal ball and say, "Let's talk about what you're going to need to do differently, because you're about to set off a shitstorm of stuff that will take years to work itself out."
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INN: Any advice for teen writers?
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BF: Just write. Allow the thoughts in your head to trickle down your arm and come out through your fingertips. Don't mercilessly edit yourself when you're getting your ideas out-- editing comes later. Don't let anyone tell you that what you're writing is wrong or that you "shouldn't" write a certain way. Give yourself permission to be as wildly creative as you want. Language is alive. It changes and grows with people as it needs to change and grow. So many people get bogged down in the "rules" of writing and being afraid they'll sound foolish, they stifle the flow of their ideas. It comes down to two words: Just. Write.
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Thank you so much, Beth!
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You can visit Beth's website at www.bethfehlbaum.com and watch the trailer at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yCNz7i88RM.

Housekeeping

- Beth Fehlbaum's interview will be posted this morning! Yay for Beth!

- My article, "Two Big Birds, One Small Stone" was featured in Funds for Writers Small Markets and The Writing Kid today.

- I finally have my laptop! So perhaps freelance writing and The Novel will not be neglected any more... maybe...

- Sorry about the lack of an advice round-up post, as promised on Friday. We've had a family medical crisis this week and I haven't been able to do anything. It will be posted Monday, right before the Brooke Taylor interview... woops, did I spill?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Recommendations Are-- Gasp! Is Nicole Kidman wearing Purple?

In our Behind the Blog week, ten different reviewers were asked about the best stuff in YA. With a few oldies but mostly 2008 releases, here is what they said.
The Books
Trouble by Gary Schmidt
The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante
Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
**Madapple by Christina Meldrum
Moby Dick (screenplay) by Ray Bradbury
Something Rotten by Alan Gratz
Learn to Play Go by Janice Kim
Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeves
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
Revelations by Melissa De La Cruz
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
The Year of My Miraculous Disappearances by Catherine Ryan Hyde
I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert
**The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Soulless by Christopher Golden
A Little Friendly Advice by Siobhan Vivian
What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando
Forever Changes by Brendan Halprin
The Serieses
Violet on the Runway (series) by Melissa Walker
Frenemies (series) by Alexa Young
Queen Geek Social Club (series) by Laura Preble
Artemis Fowl (series) by Eoin Colfer
The Authorses to Watch
**Cory Doctorow
Sherman Alexie
Scott Westerfeld
Gary Paulsen
Walter Dean Myers
Art Spiegelman
Marjane Satrapi
Marcus Zusak
Neal Shusterman
Jordan Sonnenbeck
Chris Crutcher

(** indicates more than one reviewer recommended this book/author.)
(No images because life is hard.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Go Out for Drama


(If You Want to Write...)

Go out for drama.

I've been involved in theater since elementary school. I've been in Robin Hood, Godspell, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Guys & Dolls and about ten times as many drama classes have detracted from my academics. I love Broadway music and still mournfully listen to Children of Eden once a year, the show that was cancelled.

"I'm not a great actor/tress!" you cry.

Exactly.

I have never gotten a lead role in a play. Ever. I have never sung a solo on stage. Why? Not to be a conspiracy theorist, but I'm not that hot of an actress and directors can tell. I'm loud, but that doesn't make me good. I can critique theater but can't perform it.

This self-revelation was not delivered by hand. No, instead I had years of rejections. My first heartbreak was getting the part of Agnes in Guys & Dolls (who is she? My point.) I have been rejected so many times that now, rejection is second nature. Rejection doesn't scare me, so I have the blunted guts to keep trying.

If you go out for drama- especially if you're horrible- you will pee your pants with fright. You'll get your hopes knocked around and eventually settle into a state of I'm-going-to-try-or-else. And THAT, my friends, is the moment you get published.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bookshelf: Courage in Patience

Courage in Patience is the story of Ashley Asher, a girl who has been sexually abused by her stepfather since he moved in with the family. When she finally escapes and moves in with her real dad, it's only the beginning of a journey towards redemption with other broken human beings in the little town of Patience.

It goes without saying that Courage is the story of a broken girl in an evil situation. Beth Fehlbaum does an excellent job of portraying Ashley's despair and confusion and even guilt about what happens to her. It would be easy to talk about abuse sensationally and with neon signs, but Fehlbaum tells the story without added romance or excitement: which makes it work from a literary perspective. It needs no neon.

I felt the antagonists (racist KKK-esque Christians) were not as well-rounded as the other characters like Junior, Kevin and company. It would have been interesting to see what motivates people to bigotry: is it malevolent ignorance? Is it explainable? What, honestly, makes people behave like that? However, the more time spent with Ashley the better, IMHO, and we do get a fair bit of time understanding her and the effects of her torture.

Overall, Courage in Patience is a read for any fan of Chris Crutcher and anyone looking for a window into the souls of abuse victims.

Next Week we will be hosting Beth Fehlbaum herself to talk about her inspiration for Courage in Patience, how she got published and what she would do with a time machine (or something like that.)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Behind the Blog: Miss Erin

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
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It's the last day of our whirlwind tour behind the scenes of book review blogs, and we are ending with a bang! Today's interviewee is none other than the fabulous, extraordinary:
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Miss Erin
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Miss Erin runs one of the most popular book review blogs on the web. She interviews authors, posts poetry from past and present, and critiques all her books with honesty and insight. She's universally respected, no matter what author or reader you talk to, and I'm so thrilled that she had time to chat with us.
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INN: Why did you start reviewing books online?
Miss Erin: I started when I finally discovered the wonderful world children's and YA book bloggers. And also because I found that I really enjoyed writing book reviews.
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INN: What's the best book of 2008 (so far) that hasn't been made into a movie or moved onto bestseller lists?
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Miss Erin: There's two that come straight to mind: Trouble by Gary D. Schmidt and The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante. Both are brilliant.
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INN: Through your blog, you've been able to interview fantastic authors. What's that experience been like? Do you have a favorite interview you've done?
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Miss Erin: It's been amazing. I'm so blessed to have the opportunity to basically email any author or publicist of an author and be able to interview them, just like that! Before I started blogging, I never would've guessed that authors would be so accessible to contact and talk to. I love every single interview I've done, so choosing a favorite is too hard.
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Kirsten Miller's is pure fun...Clare Dunkle's is astoundingly thoughtful....and my most recent, with Shannon, Dean and Nathan Hale, was a dream come true.
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INN: When you were younger, did you ever find a book you hated? Which ones?
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Miss Erin: I hated a picture book I had of Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Match Girl...the ending broke my heart. There's another book but I can't remember its title...but in the end, the girl died by getting electrocuted during a lightning storm. I guess I didn't care for tragic/traumatic endings too much... :)
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INN: What's your advice for other reviewers?
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Miss Erin: Don't write a review with the mindset of "I'm writing a review." Write it with the mindset of "I'm writing my thoughts of this book." Your personal thoughts are the unique thing that only you have to offer. It's what makes you different from all the other reviewers out there.
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Thank you so much, Miss Erin!
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That's it, folks! Later next week I'll be posting the highlights of these fantastic reviewers' advice and of course, the best books they recommend! Thanks to everyone who participated and all you readers for listening.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Behind the Blog: The Book Muncher

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
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Two more to go! Today we're hanging out with
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The Book Muncher
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The Book Muncher is a blog I kept on seeing and hearing about. When I finally visited, I was so impressed by both the design and thoughtful, critical nature of the reviews. Apart from her blog, the Book Muncher also keeps up an impressive listing of current YA contests... who doesn't love a free book? I'm so glad she could join us!
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INN: Why did you start reviewing online?
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Book Muncher: I've always been an avid reader and liked to discuss my opinion on the books I read. But it wasn't until December of last year when I realized I could but that to good use. That was when I stumbled upon a couple of book reviewing blogs, The Page Flipper and Book Chic. So, with a little help from Chelsea (The Page Flipper) and a hunger for books, The Book Muncher was born. I started with no previous experience whatsoever, but now I get to do what I love (and the free books are just another plus!).
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INN: What are your pet peeves when it comes to teen fiction?
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Book Muncher: Anything to do with unoriginality bothers me. For example, I hate stereotypical characters because then I feel like I've heard it all before. Repetition with character traits or plot and predictability are big turnoffs because then the story feels like it's going around in circles or I will be able to guess the outcome, which pretty much defeats the purpose of me reading the story. Other things I dislike are when stories try too hard to be deep and then fail, or books that are both long and boring.
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INN: What's the best book of 2008—two if you can't pick?
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Book Muncher: That's really tough because I usually like most of the books I read. But I will force myself to choose by pretending this is a life-or-death situation, and even then I'm only able to narrow it down to two. My favorites (so far) would have to be Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall (suspense, mystery, and family secrets, oh my!) and The Host by Stephenie Meyer (technically an adult novel, but it can be enjoyed by anyone because it's such a fantastic story).
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INN: Are there any trends you've noticed in YA this year or last—in theme, style, setting, etc.
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Book Muncher: Well, there are just so many young adult books in existence that I may or may not have read, so it's hard for me to make generalizations (besides the fact that I hate making generalizations). Anyway…there seem to be an abundance of vampire novels being published due to the wild success of Twilight. I've also noticed more books with fairies/faeries, royalty, spies, or depressing futuristic situations (although these do happen to make great stories), though usually not all of the above.
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Plus there are a ton of books about spoiled elite teens that take place at snobby boarding or private schools. But I'm totally guessing these things happened in the last couple years; they could've been occurring for centuries for all I know! Oh, and lately, there seem to be a lot of movies made out of teen novels.
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INN: Any advice for fellow teen reviewers?
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Book Muncher:
-Don't be afraid to write what you think! It's called "your opinion" for a reason.
-Read whatever you like. It doesn't have to come from a reviewing program, agent, or publisher; it came be from your library. All that matters is that it's a book.
-Don't accept all books for review being offered to you or you will probably get overwhelmed. And prioritize the books you do accept based on review deadline (if any) and when you got the book to review (it's better to review the books you get first to avoid any angry/impatient people).
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Thank you *so* much, Book Muncher!
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It's our last Behind the Blog tomorrow with the indefatigable, unstoppable Miss Erin!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Behind the Blog: WORD for Teens

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
It's Thursday of Behind the Blogginess, and today we're hanging with another awesome teen reviewer. Everyone say hi to Nicole!
Nicole, of WORD for Teens
Nicole posts positively spiffy reviews on her site, rounded out by interviews and contests. Like any AP teen who blogs, she's got to be a mistress of time management to read and review and survive school! And to do it all so well.

INN: Why did you start blogging at WORD for Teens?
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Nicole: Because my mom told me I was talking so much about book that I needed a place to let it all out- and that's the honest truth. She runs a few blogs of her own, and I had been helping her keep them updated. I have a bad habit of talking and talking about things I love, and my main love is books. After talking to her for an hour straight, she told me I needed a blog or something so other people (besides her) could hear what I had to say... and so her ear didn't fall off from all the talking. And so WORD was born.
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INN: Was there an amazing book that you read this year that took you by surprise?
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Nicole: That's easy. Christina Meldrum's Madapple. I was expecting it to be an interesting book, but nothing out of the ordinary - and it ended up being extraordinary. I was also surprised by how much I liked Melissa Walker's Violet on the Runway, as I'm not very interested in fashion.
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INN: Do you have a favorite word? Is it used in any of your favorite books?
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Nicole: My favorite words are actually MADE UP WORDS from the Broadway musical Wicked, simply because they're so much fun to use in real life. (And Wicked was based off of Gregory Maguire's Wicked, a very good book, but I enjoy the musical better.) The words would be swankified, hideodeous, and confusifyed. My favorite regular word has to be spiffy; it describes things so well. I can't remember any book that that's in off of the top of my head, but I know I've seen it before.
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INN: Name three up-and-coming YA authors that are worth following.
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Nicole: Alexa Young - if the rest of her Frenemies series is as enjoyable as the first one, it should be a fun series to read. Besides, her blog is one of the funniest things in cyber space. Laura Preble - she's already had two books published in the span of a few years, so she's not up-and-coming so much as more-people-need-to-discover-her. However, her Queen Geek Social Club series has me laughing out loud and the website based around it is also very cool.
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This is bad, I can't think of one off of the top of my head that would be considered up-and-coming... so... let's just stick with YA authors for a third one and go with Eoin Colfer, because his Artemis Fowl series rocks my pink, green and blue socks.
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INN: What's your advice for other teen reviewers?
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Nicole: Just because nobody's commenting or you think nobody's reading your blog doesn't mean you should stop blogging. Somebody will find you and somebody will appreciate your opinion - or argue with you over it. Never give up! (And that was ridiculously inspirational, so I shall add onto that don't be afraid to have fun - use crazy smilies like *-* and spruce your site up. Bright colors rock - just not too many of them!)
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Thank you SO much, Nicole!
As Behind the Blog continues, we'll be chilling with The Book Muncher tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Behind the Blog: Guys Lit Wire

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
Welcome to Wednesday of our exploration into the coolest book review blogs on the internet. I knew when I was compiling this week's events that I wanted to have at least one guy reviewer. I found Guys Lit Wire, an insane collective blog written to help guys find good books. I chatted with four of the guy contributors to learn more about them, guy books and GLW itself. Thanks to all of them for hanging out!
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Guys Lit Wire
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Alex, Justin, Edward and David
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Alex is the author of The Sword-Edged Blonde and blogs at http://www.downinluckytown.blogspot.com/.
Edward reviews for several websites.
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INN: How did you get involved with Guys Lit Wire?
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Alex: Gwenda Bond mentioned it on her blog when Colleen Ward was setting itup, and I immediately volunteered. At the time I had one son and another on the way, so it seemed like a good idea, since obviously I'dbe thinking about the topic a lot anyway.
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Justin: Several blogs I regularly read mentioned GLW when Colleen and Sarah were putting it together. I wrote them and linked to the other blog I write for (http://www.littleshopofstories.blogspot.com/ is a blog for the bookstore where I work. We're a children's bookstore with everything from board books to a YA section, and even an "adult books" section), and expressed my interest in what GLW looks to do. They had an opening and invited me to join.
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Edward: My supervisor at the public library suggested I contact the GLW webmaster. She knows my interest in promoting literacy, reading, and getting more guys in the library.
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David: GLW was one of those crazy things that happens when a bunch of opinionated people start talking and someone says "Oh yeah? Well why don't we do something about it?" At the time I was working in a bookstore and I added my thoughts about what would make an ideal teen bookstore -- underground, with computers, and lounge areas with music, collectively managed...
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The next thing I know there was a group emailing to a bunch of us kidlit bloggers asking if there was interest in starting a new blog dedicated to bringing reviews and news about solid books for teen boys. I believe it was Colleen Mondor of the blog Chasing Ray who was the lead on this. She sent out the call, and a bunch of responded, and then we spent the next five months or so putting it in place. I love the idea of this blog so much, I'm only slightly embarrassed I didn't think of the idea myself.
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INN: What's the best book you've reviewed this year, and why was it so great?
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Alex: Ray Bradbury's screenplay for the 1956 version of Moby Dick, recently published by Subterranean Press. With that kind of pedigree (candidate for greatest American novel ever, adapted for the screen byone of our best contemporary writers), how could it not be? It's also a terrific gateway book for kids trying to muscle their way through Melville, since it peels away the outdated whale biology and nautical trivia to concentrate on the man-vs-monster plot. Bradbury also resists the urge to tamper much with perfection: no "love interest" is shoehorned into the story, for example.
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Justin: Of the books I've reviewed this year, Something Rotten, by Alan Gratz is definitely the best. It's a hardboiled detective novel set in Knoxville, TN about a teen whose best friend is dealing with the possible murder of his father by his uncle who has just taken over the family business and married his mother. Sound like Hamlet? Well, that's because the plot is loosely based on the play. This book, to me, is exactly the kind of thing I wish had been around when I was in high school. I'm really glad there 's a sequel, Something Wicked, coming out in a month or two.
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Edward: At GLW, my first posted review is my favorite, so far. I reviewed Janice Kim’s Learn to Play Go. It’s a five-volume set about an Asian strategy and tactics board game that will appeal to chess players who want a challenge. Ms. Kim is a professional Go player, and offers the best English-language introduction to the game I have found.
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David: For reasons that are beyond me I have read a lot of good books that I haven't had a chance to review! Actually right now I'm reading the galley of Philip Reeves Here Lies Arthur which is due out in September and I really like it. It's a retelling of the legend of King Arthur that debunks a lot of the mythology in favor of telling the story behind the story. I'm going to have to hold off saying more because (shameless plug) I'm reviewing it for Guys Lit Wire in early September!
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INN: Who's writing the best YA for guys right now?
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Alex: Cory Doctorow is getting a lot of press and blog time for his timely and intense Little Brother. Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is, like most of his work, enriched by both his writing skill and his look into Native American culture.
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Justin: My favorite consistent YA writer right now is Scott Westerfeld. He's primarily an SF writer, but he writes horror, fantasy, and books set in "the real world" whatever that means. I haven't read a single book by him that isn't awesome, that doesn't make my mind explode they're so crammed with cool ideas, and doesn't feel completely authentic to what it means to be a teen. Some books have boy protagonists, some have girls, and they all rock. Start with So Yesterday or Peeps, an interesting take on vampires.
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Edward: My favorite YA writers these days are Gary Paulsen and Walter Dean Myers. These guys write great fiction and (Hurray!) great nonfiction, too. Daniel Pinkwater writes some of the funniest stuff (including some nonfiction probably shelved in the adult collection). Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Maus II, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis and Persepolis 2 are not graphic novels – they are biographies in graphic format, and very awesome. I’ll read Satrapi’s Embroideries and Chicken with Plums, also graphic nonfiction, soon. I expect they’ll be great, but they’re shelved in our adult collection so may be inappropriate?
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David: Best is such a subjective thing, but right now I don't know anyone writing YA like M.T. Anderson. His book Feed alone would be enough for me to mention him, but his Octavian Nothing books are a new gold standard for YA as far as I can tell. Okay, Anderson and Marcus Zusak are both holding up the bar. I like Neal Shusterman and Jordan Sonnenbeck and Chris Crutcher. Though he doesn't write YA specifically I don't think we should ignore Cory Doctrow's Little Brother.
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INN: Guys are usually stereotyped as non-readers. Why do you think that is, and what's your comeback?
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Alex: Like everything in contemporary kids' and YA lit, I think it can all be traced to the advent of Harry Potter a decade ago. HP has, based on my experience, a disproportionately female fan base, and whenever the media talks about books for kids, HP is always the lead and the fans they show are always girls. That's a huge and probably inaccurate description, but when the next big thing is something like Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series, it's hard to refute as a public perception. I think boys read as much as girls, they just don't get asked to gush about it.
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Justin: I think adults--and here I'm talking about publishers, parents, and teachers--forget what it was like when they were teens. Some guys respond to Catcher in the Rye, some guys respond to Batman, some guys respond to sports reporting. My parents and teachers didn't want me to read comic books when I was a kid.
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But that's crap: as long as what guys are reading is the good stuff--the well-written comics and sports articles and fantasy books and, yes, even literature--then it doesn't matter... I think that guys are voracious readers, but the culture around them says that what they read "doesn't count." Unfortunately, I think guys take this to heart and think that they themselves don't read.
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Edward: John Holt observed that if we taught children to speak the way they are taught to read in the schools that we’d have a nation of nontalkers. In “We’re Teaching Books that Don’t Stack Up” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/22/AR2008082202398.html), high school English teacher Nancy Schnog quotes one of her recent juniors (a guy), “The reason for studying fiction escapes me. Why waste time thinking about fabricated situations when there are plenty of real situations that need solutions? ... fiction has a place in the world, but it is not in the classroom. It is beside the night lamp next to your bed…”
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Guys do like nonfiction, in my experience. Some may wish to study fiction in the classroom, and if so, should have that option. But if you force me to read something, I am liable to not enjoy the process.
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David: Is it a stereotype? I was sort of a non-reader as a teen but it was because I was struggling to find things I liked. As a society we don't really do a good job teaching guys how to identify what they like in terms of their interests in reading. And we intimidate them, it's very subtle, by the cues in the environment. Go to a library, a bookstore, a school and you'll find many, many women recommending "good" books that bore the crap out of boys. Where are the men? Where are the male booksellers and librarians?
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Non-fiction, newspapers and magazines, these count as far as "guys reading" as I'm concerned but not generally when they do surveys on reading among guys. Hello! The sports section of the newspaper generally has a higher reading level than the reast of the paper, rich in simile and metaphor, fusing complex content and anecdote. Graphic novels count as well, but are generally looked down upon as "less serious" reading. But it counts!
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INN: What's your advice for other reviewers of guy lit?
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Alex: Good God, none at all. I'd never presume to give advice to another reviewer. Reviewing anything is entirely subjective, and if the reviewer communicates his or her opinion clearly, that's all you can ask.
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Justin: I'll keep it simple, because it is. You only need two things: honesty about what your reviewing, and regular, consistent posting. You may be brilliant, but if you only post once in awhile, people won't read what you have to say because you're effectively never around. And as far as the honesty thing--write about what interests you because it will show in your writing.
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Don't worry what others think. I recently wrote about a graphic novel that I hated and I was worried because most of what I was seeing out there was positive reviews about the book. After my review, though, I got several comments from folks who felt the same way.
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Edward: If you want to review books for guys, consider nonfiction. It need not be a bestseller, nor even recently published. Look at The Double Helix, The Lives of a Cell, the regrettably out-of-print Digging Dinosaurs, biographies, how-to books, humor… Fiction has its place, but certainly 50% of reviews could be nonfiction, couldn’t they?
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David: Be honest. Don't be mean but say what you think, and WHY. I reviewed a picture book that I had some problems with and the author wrote me back to let me know that, yup, I was right, he'd been asked to change his story by his editor and it wasn't the book he meant to write. Everyone has an opinion, and that's good, but keep in mind that having an opinion isn't the same thing as being right. Be respectful, and fearless, and read as much as you can of all kinds of things.
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THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!
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Let's hear some virtual applause for Alex, Justin, Edward and David. Do I hear it? Do I hear it? Excellent.
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Tomorrow we shall go on a quest and see Behind the Blog with Nicole at WORD for Teens

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Behind the Blog: The Story Siren

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
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It's Day Three of our whirlwind tour of the bestest, kick-buttingest book review bloggers on the web. FYI, I will be putting together a list of all the books our bloggers recommend as read-or-die so that we can worship at the shrine of their wisdom, and a compilation of their advice. Remind me I promised this when I lose any semblance of a social life.
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Today we're hanging with...
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Kristi
AKA The Story Siren
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Kristi has not only a gorgeous, informative site, but a unique BFF tone with her reviews. Apart from the reviewing, Kristi features regular "Author Tales" (guest blogs by YA authors) that rock, in addition to a bazillion simultaneous contests. I'm so thrilled she could join us!
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INN: Why did you start reviewing books online?
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Kristi: I sort of fell into the whole reviewing thing. Like most reviewers, I love to read, obviously. I was always asked "what are you reading now," "what do you think about (insert title here)," "have you read (insert title here)" so I just decided to put my thoughts down, and so my blog was born.
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Now when I started reviewing, I had no idea there was something called an ARC, I would have never thought to email an author, and the whole free books thing, who knew?! I started reviewing books I had bought and books I checked out at the library and my blog just sort of grew from there. I never expected to have people besides my friends and family visit.
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INN: Can you predict any runaway bestsellers from this fall's lineup of YA books? or at least, any super amazing ones?
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Kristi: There are some super amazing books I’m really excited to read this fall!
Brisingr by Christopher Paolini. I’ve been waiting for this one forever! I just hope that it lives up to my expectations! Revelations by Melissa de la Cruz. Blue Bloods is one of my favorite vampire series’. I can’t wait to read this installment! I love de la Cruz’s take on the vampire myth, very ingenious!
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Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception by Maggie Stiefvater. This is Maggie’s debut novel, so I don’t know much about her writing style, but the premise of this book has me in eager anticipation!
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INN: Why did you pick The Story Siren for your blog title?
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Kristi: Well, one day I was at the beach reading a novel and out of nowhere..... j/k! I don’t have a funny story or inspiring lightbulb moment of how I came up with the title of my blog. I was just brainstorming and it came to me. Another plus was that it wasn’t taken on Blogger yet! I have my creative moments every once in awhile. I’ve really come to appreciate how my title has became a theme for my blog!
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INN: When you were in elementary school, what was your absolutely favorite book? Has the author written anything else?
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Kristi: I was big reader in elementary school too, believe it or not! So, I didn’t exactly have an absolute favorite book. It’s hard to remember the books I was even reading. I do remember The Velveteen Rabbit, Wind in the Willows, The Mitten,.... I loved the Amelia Bedelia books, I think I read everyone of those! Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps, The Boxcar Children, Red Badge of Courage, Castle in the Attic. I think you got the picture.
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I have no idea if these authors have written anything else, I’d have to look up most of them to even see who they were written by!
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INN: What's one thing other reviewers can do to make their reviews more interesting?
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Kristi: I always try to write what I would want to know about a book. Try to decide who you want to write for: do you want to be professional or more casual? I like to write a review like I’m talking to my best friend or my sister.
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Everyone has a different writing style and I think that is interesting! I’m not the best writer so, I try to make my reviews more interesting by using theme icons and a rating system. You just have to find a niche that fits your style and go from there. I don’t think anyone can really tell you what that is.
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Thank you so much, Kristi!
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Tomorrow we go Behind the Blog with four guys from Guys Lit Wire.
It'll be a testosterone-filled day.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Behind the Blog: Reviewer X

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week
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It's day two of our getting-to-know-reviewers extravaganza, and today we're meeting Steph, AKA Reviewer X.
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Reviewer X
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Steph started Reviewer X back in March* and is already a hugely popular reviewer. Apart from reviews, she works with Kristi (The Story Siren) to do a weekly post called "The YA Connection," listing reviews, contests and interesting posts happening in the YA blogosphere. I'm so glad Steph could join us!
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INN: Why did you start reviewing books online?
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Steph: Really, I just liked the idea of giving a full account of my opinion on a book for the whole world to see. (I know how self-involved this sounds, but it's the truth.) That said, my blog wasn't created on impulse—rather, it was a slow and gradual process, with maybe a year in between taking root in my subconscious, seeing an interview of Libba Bray (an author I honest-to-god worship) on 3 Evil Cousins, realizing two of my best friends had started their own blogs, and, finally, taking action myself.
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My opinions have yet to be seen by the whole world, but Reviewer X has attracted a much bigger audience than initially intended (I only expected my two blogger friends to come around), and I've interacted with some very awesome people I'm proud to call my readers.
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INN: What's the best book (or top three if you can't pick) that you've read and reviewed for your blog?
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Steph: Oh, lord, this will be a toughie. If I go over the limit, forgive me. I'm a hard person to please, so finding a book I love with no reservations is no small feat. However, I have fallen head over heels since starting the blog. Catherine Ryan Hyde's The Year of My Miraculous Disappearance comes to mind, as does I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone by Stephanie Kuehnert, Madapple by Christina Meldrum, and The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson.
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INN: Have any crazy things happened since you've started reviewing?
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Steph: Yes. One of the wildest things that has happened is the fact I talk with some authors regularly. And not just one or two "business" emails while in the middle of doing a review, interview, and/or other promotional stuff. I'm saying actual talks, both about the industry and those that go on a personal level. These, via email, once in a while IM, and even the phone once. Seriously—not for a second expected beforehand.
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Second thing is the fact there are people who actually want my opinion on a book. This, too, blows my mind. I mean, we reviewers get email blasts all the time about authors hitting many blogs simultaneously. Which is fine and I understand where they're coming from, but when you get someone who wants you specifically, you can't deny how much better that deal is. (Well, not so much if you give them a negative review...)
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And thirdly, I have readers. Not just beloved friends, but people who came by and kept coming by. People who subscribe. People who sometimes comment. And people who sometimes email telling you they enjoy something you've done. It's elating, that's what it is.
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INN: Is there a classic book (from Herodotus to Steinbeck) that you think deserves a one star or no rating at all?
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Steph: I'm here to tell you that my readership of English-language classics is shameful. In fact, I've only read some Jane Austen and Shakespeare. That is to say, I haven't even read Catcher in the Rye! (But I plan to. I really do.) So let's push that aside and talk about classics in my native language. (Sidestepping what my native language actually is because I prefer to share my location only on a need-to-know basis.)
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I'm adding a disclaimer here that I may sound a little constipated. That's what many an in depth class lit class with one hell of a teacher. Anyway, our lit can be summarized with: existential, focusing on social differences based on location, income and education. Most of our renowned lit either explores human psychology or talks about these existential topics, drawing parallels between a person's wealth and their location and weather, their mastery of language and how it impacts the control the elite have on them, etc.
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It's fascinating on a theoretical level, but once you get down and read the texts, they're so dry, or alternately, so dense, they hardly captivate me. But studying the geopolitical parallels is awesome. And yes, this makes me a dork.
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INN: What's your advice for other teen reviewers?
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Steph: I'm not sure I'm in the position to "impart wisdom", so to speak. I'm a girl, I'm a teen, I'm a blogger, and I'm just doing the best I can. There's no secret to that. Really, I'm just like every other blogger out there, except maybe with less experience. I'm here to absorb the advice of others. (This is why I run discusions for reviewers and authors regularly on my blog.) If you've got some, no matter who you are, I'm all ears. :)
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However, if you want some cheap advice from me anyway, allow me to say this: Never make your blog your top priority. It's not. Real life is. Never fall behind on that.
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Thank you, Steph!
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Tomorrow we go Behind the Blog with Kristi, the Story Siren
*I originally said April 2008, which is obviously incorrect to anyone who reads Steph's header. Woops!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Behind the Blog: Little Willow

Welcome to Behind the Blog!

Book reviewing bloggers are crazy. They are insane. They are so flipping cool that we are spending this whole week getting to know the people behind seven of our favorite blogs. Our kick-off interviewee is none other than
Little Willow



Little Willow is a bookseller, book reviewer, actress and web designer all at once. She's involved with several online groups and reviews, and a new contributor to SparkNotes and SparkLife. Her reputation as a book critic and reading advocate is respected throughout the blogosphere and I'm thrilled to have her here with us.
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INN: Why did you start reviewing books online?
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LW: I've always loved reading and talking about books with others. I've worked in bookstores for years. I like moderating book groups and putting books in the hands of people I know will enjoy them. I especially like recommending authors and books which are fantastic but perhaps aren't as well known as other writers or releases. I started my book blog, Bildungsroman, as an extension of all that.
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INN: You're involved with many different online groups, such as Readergirlz and Guys Lit Wire. What have those experiences been like?
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LW: I'm proud to be a part of both projects. I am in constant touch with the readergirlz divas (the authors who founded the project) as I update the website and create the HTML code for the monthly issues. I also head up the postergirlz, the teen lit advisory council, which is made up of five females: a bookseller (me), a YA librarian, a mother, and two teens, all of whom are bloggers and writers.
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I am one of many contributors to the GuysLitWire blog, which was created and is overseen by Colleen from the Chasing Ray blog and Sarah from Finding Wonderland. Both readergirlz and GLW aim to get people talking about good books, especially those with strong characters who overcome adversity or dare to be different.
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INN: What's the best book of 2008 so far?
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LW: It's difficult to name only one title, as there have been so many notable releases in YA this year. Soulless by Christopher Golden is my pick for horror, hands-down. Zombies are "in" this year, and this is far and away the best of the undead batch. Siobhan Vivian must be noted as a great new voice in realistic modern-day fiction with her debut novel, A Little Friendly Advice.
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The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a brilliant book, both timely and topical as we realize what was once perceived as the stuff of science fiction could be tomorrow's reality. What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando was stunning, really stunning. Forever Changes by Brendan Halprin also must be mentioned.
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INN: If you could turn any old movie (say, pre-1975) into a classic book, what movie would you choose? Would any plot elements change?
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LW: That's a nice twist. Usually, people ask about making books into films, rather than the other way around. I'd love to get my hands on the story Love Lies Bleeding by Jack (John) Patrick. It was the basis for one of my favorite movies, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, but I do not know if it was simply an idea or actually a published story.
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In any event, I would keep it as it was; I would not not make it contemporary nor change it in any other way. Oh, except for the cat. I'd make sure that the cat was uninjured. If you want to know what I'm talking about, you simply must watch the film!
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INN: Any advice for fellow reviewers?
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LW: Be honest. Be professional. Be positive. Read a little bit of everything, and re-read old favorites every once in a while. Read for fun, for research, and for the love of a good book.
Thank you, Little Willow!
We continue with Behind the Blog tomorrow to meet Steph, AKA Reviewer X

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bookshelf: Susan McBride and the Debs


Susan McBride is the author of The Debs, the first in a new young adult series from Random House featuring four prep school seniors in Houston, Texas, during their debutante season. Love, Lies and Texas Dips will follow in June of 2009, and Susan has signed to pen two more Debs books. She has also written five Debutante Dropout Mysteries for HarperCollins/Avon. Once called "The Lou's Whodunit Queen" by Sauce Magazine in St. Louis, Susan was selected as one of the city's "top singles" in 2005 by St. Louis Magazine but is single no more. She tied the knot in late February of 2008.
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INN: The girls in The Debs are all very different. Which one is most like you? (Not Jo Lynn, I think!)
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SM: If I ever start acting like Jo Lynn, someone had better slap me! Jo Lynn’s motto is “win at all costs,” and she can be brutal. She’s very driven, that’s for sure, and I am, too. But that’s probably all we have in common. Honestly, I’m not like any one particular girl in THE DEBS, but I do share a few traits with Mac and Ginger. Like Mac, I love books, music and old movies. I’m a bit cynical, too, and wish that society weren’t so focused on outward appearance instead of inner beauty.
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Ginger has my reddish hair and my desire to make the world a better place. I wish I had Laura’s boldness. While I’m not shy, I definitely wouldn’t be brave enough to do some of the things she does, particularly where Avery is concerned. I do like that Laura tries so hard to be comfortable with herself the way she is and not let people pressure her into becoming someone else. That takes guts.
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INN: If your characters were all on a reality TV show, what would the name of the show be and what would be the prize?
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SM: Hmm, how about “Survivor: Deb Island,” where the motto is “Out-shop, out-dress, out-lie”? Or maybe “Deb or Die,” which is kind of to the point. I mean, making the Glass Slipper Club’s debutante list is life or death, right?
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So the prize would be debuting in a custom-made Vera Wang ball-gown and plenty of bling from Tiffany, like an understated diamond tiara. Oh, yeah, and getting escorted to the ball by Chase Crawford or Johnny Depp.
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INN: Where's your favorite place to write?
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SM: I have a writing room in the house (it feels weird to call it an “office,” although I guess it is). The walls are painted a deep burnt orange color called Cayenne Pepper. My desk is an old dining room table that I found at an antiques mall in Dallas, and I’ve got a completely un-ergonomic chair that’s faux French with caning in the back (and ripped upholstery—but it’s being reupholstered soon!).
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My fold-down treadmill is in here, as is a big file cabinet that looks like stacked suitcases. I have a few framed posters from book signings, and a bookcase with glass doors. It’s really comfortable and functional, and it’s hard for me to write anywhere else. Though I do take my laptop on the road occasionally and try to write. I’m just not good at concentrating when there are too many distractions!
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INN: What are you reading right now?
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SM: I’ve just started Kate Brian’s Confessions after finishing up Libba Bray’s Rebel Angels. After Confessions comes Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon. Yes, I’ve become addicted to those series! There are so many wonderful, engaging books in YA. Going to the bookstore and trying to pick out what I’m going to read next is like being a kid in a candy store. Love it!
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INN: What can you tell us about Love, Lies and Texas Dips?
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SM: If I say too much, I’m going to spoil some of the twists in The Debs. Suffice it to say, it picks up where The Debs leaves off, and we get to follow Jo Lynn, Laura, Mac and Ginger as they (hopefully) take a few steps further into their debutante season. One of the minor characters in The Debs becomes a bigger player, and new crushes develop as hearts get shredded. Isn’t that always the way?
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Maybe I’m biased (okay, I am), but I think Love, Lies and Texas Dips is even better than The Debs. There’s just a lot going on, and it moves really fast…and I can hardly wait until June of 2009 so y’all can read it!
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INN: Any advice for teen writers?
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SM: Just read as much as possible in all genres. Write as often as you can, whether it’s doing short stories or keeping a journal. Experiment with your writing, too, always challenging yourself to go one step farther. Blogging is a great way to express yourself and connect with other writers, just be careful of how much personal information you share. You need to keep something for yourself (and for your novels!).
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Don’t be afraid to take chances, and remember there are no rules. What makes a story sell is its unique voice, which is something only you can bring. Oh, yeah, and never give up. Unless you’re well-connected (like, your dad is Stephen King or your mom is J.K. Rowling), it can be hard to break in. Persistence and luck are as important as talent. Hope that helps!
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Thank you so much, Susan!
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Visit Susan's awesome website at http://www.susanmcbride.com/ and buy The Debs here http://www.amazon.com/Debs-Susan-McBride/dp/0385735197. I really liked this book (see my review last week) and if you're fond of intelligent-fun-reads-in-hilarious-and-sweet-situations, you will too.

WORD: Top 3 Teen Mistakes

by Gabrielle Linnell

This summer I've blogged a lot about how to structure your time and schedule your life so that you have time to write and know who the fourth judge is on American Idol. This fall, I'll be writing more about everyone's favorite topic: how to get published.

I always put off reading The 38 Most Common Fiction Mistakes because it sounded so negative. I picked it up a few weeks ago and was totally shocked. Jack Bickham is right on the money. So what mistakes do teens make in getting published, and how can you avoid them?

Mistake #1: They hate editing.

This comes from a writer who hates to have anyone else edit her own work. Seriously, I hate it unless I'm getting paid. But this works out okay for me because I edit my work. Many teen writers don't edit. This includes:

- proofreading for grammar and spelling
- improving the story after writing it once
- tightening dialogue and points
- making stories shorter

How can you fix it? Start a habit of editing your own stuff as if it was written by your cheating, no-good, son/daughter-of-a-hooligan ex-Significant Other. Ooh! Don't you feel the anger mounting? Edit your stuff as if they wrote it. It will drastically improve.

Mistake #2: They don't research the magazines they submit to

You don't have to read every magazine or website you submit to, but you do have to know what type of submissions they accept, what style they prefer and what money they will pay you or not pay you for your work.

If you do this, your acceptance rate will shoot up and you'll be happier because you know what you're getting paid, what you're writing and how you write it.

Mistake #3: They don't experiment with other genres

We're teens. We are historically proven to be experimenters, usually with disastrous results. But the same people who try dubious plants in pipes and eating seven hamburgers in one sitting refuse to expand from fiction to nonfiction, from essays to articles or poetry to prose.

Try a little bit of everything. I never use to write nonfiction but it's 80-90% of what I publish now. So of course, I dabble in fiction to keep all my guns polished. Experiment! If you do, you'll learn what you like and don't like and you'll get published more often.

There are many mistakes you'll make in life, and most will help you out in the end. Just don't make these mistakes in your writing.

Gabrielle Linnell has made many mistakes and somehow come out without a police record (kidding, kidding.) She's been published about thirty-five times and is in love with school. The wedding will be announced shortly.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week Schedule

Our Behind the Blog: Reviewer Speak Week kicks off this Sunday and will be going on full-blast until Saturday. We're also hosting Susan McBride tomorrow (yay for Debs!) so this means eight straight interviews! OH MY GOODNESS! Schedule is below.

Sunday (9.7)- Little Willow
Monday (9.8)- Reviewer X
Tuesday (9.9)- The Story Siren
Wednesday (9.10)- Guys Lit Wire
Thursday (9.11)- WORD for Teens
Friday (9.12)- The Book Muncher
Saturday (9.13)- Miss Erin
These book review bloggers will be talking about their favorite (and least favorite) books of all time, what led them to start reviewing, advice for other reviewers and loads of other stuff. These bloggers have collectively reviewed hundreds and hundreds of books, built successful and amazing sites, have their opinions respected and help keep the love of reading alive.
Did I mention I'm psyched?