Our Take on Race in YA

Writing Song of the Day: “Come Together” by The Beatles

Friends, with so much drama going on in the world, we try to make things really light here on the blog. However, there were a few blog posts last week that truly inspired me.

It all started with this gem from YA Highway. Nicola K. Richardson wrote a guest post titled “Writing Race in YA.” You see, she’s an African-American YA writer just like Quita and me, and she brought up concerns that we’ve quietly noticed for years: the sometimes lack of diversity in YA fiction. Growing up, we read a TON, but we didn’t have many characters that we could identify with. So, what did we do when we first started getting really serious about our writing? We wrote what we generally read: about white characters. But to prove that we weren’t “selling out” in the black community, we also wrote about biracial characters–mainly a character with one black parent and one white parent.

Why? Because we didn’t want to ostracize the white reader. Even though we heart writing, we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want people to actually read it. We didn’t want to write about gangs and growing up in the ghetto, which makes up the majority of black YA fiction on the shelves. To us, we thought being successful meant writing about white people.

But when Nicola wrote about “Not Quite Black” characters, my heart sank. She was talking about me. I had to stop thinking I was being diverse just because I threw in a few biracial characters. I really need to write about my experiences–and growing up, I had friends of all races. So why couldn’t I write about them?

Then I read another great blog post by the lovely @sjaejones. She’s biracial, and she was a tad upset about Nicola’s comment on biracial characters–which I completely understand. I think the biracial community needs a voice just as much as any other minority. However, this is how I took Nicola’s comment:

On this sitcom, My Wife and Kids, Damon Wayans’ teenaged daughter looked like this during season one:

But during season two, she magically looked like this:

As you can see, these two girls look nothing alike. I’m not saying the casting decision had anything to do with race. All I know is that most of the time when a black person is depicted in a TV show or a movie, they usually look like the second girl. I don’t look like her, and not to sound conceited, but I’d like to see more examples of people that look like me.

Finally, the lovely Dia Reeves gave her take on race in YA. Basically, she agrees with Quita and me–not all black characters should have to go through the hardships of oppression or the ghetto. Sometimes they just want to kick some supernatural ass. Can I get a woot woot?

There you have it. My main characters will no longer just be white or biracial–they’ll be whoever I want them to be. Besides, not just white characters can fall in love with vampires or overturn a dystopian government.

What would you all love to see more in YA? Are you doing anything in your writing about it?


What Agents Want: Selkies!

Querying Song of the Day: “Watered Down” by The Used

What Agents Want is a new series in which we will research what trends/topics agents are looking for right now. We’ll give you information on the trend/topic and the agent that is looking for this specific type of project. The better to query with, my dears.
This week, we are gonna go into a territory that freaks me the BLEEP out. I HATE mermaids–they are the weirdest creatures EVER! And this creature that is featured here today is in the family of “sea people”.
Ginger Clark (Curtis Brown, Ltd.) mentioned in an interview that she is looking for novels that feature supernatural creatures that are not overused. In her example of said creatures, she listed something called a selkie.
So, what the heck is a selkie?

1.)They are creatures from Faroese, Irish, Icelandic, and Scottish mythology

2.) They can be referred to as a silkie, or selch
3.) They are a form of shapeshifters (they can be either male or female)
4.) They are seal/human creatures that can shed their seal/human skin when needed
5.) They are handsome/beautiful and seductive (aren’t they all??)
Male selkies look for females who are unsatisfied with their romantic life (we can assume that female selkies do the same)
6.)They are supposed to be found on the Orkney and Shetland islands
7.) Selkie comes from selch/selk which is the Scottish word for seal
8.) Without their seal skin, selkies are stuck in their human form
What Kind of Legends/Stories Make the Rounds About Selkies?
* They are usually tragic romance tales where either the selkie lover is gone without a trace (and the human did not know they were a selkie), or the human lover hides or burns the selkies seal skin.
* Selkie females: They make good wives, but they long to return back to sea. They are usually staring at water and being miserable in their human lives.
* Selkie males: They are said to be responsible for problems at sea like shipwrecks and storms.
* Selkie and human lovers are only supposed to spend short bursts of time with each other before the selkie must return to sea. Then they can see each other again in seven years, unless the human gets a hold of the selkie’s seal skin.
* If a woman wishes to see a male selkie, they need to cry seven tears in the sea.
* Some folklore says selkies are the tortured souls of drowned humans.
What Books Can I Read for Research?
Water Shaper by Laura Williams McCaffrey
Seven Tears Into the Sea by Terri Farley
A Kiss of Shadows by Laurell K. Hamilton
Finally, tell me about the agent who wants novels featuring selkies!
Ginger Clark has worked at Curtis Brown, Ltd. since 2005. She represents science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, literary horror, and young adult and middle grade fiction. Ginger also represents British rights for the agency’s children list. Some of Ginger’s clients (according to QueryTracker.net) include: Patricia Wrede, Richard Kadrey, and most recently: Scott Tracey!

Once you write this awesometastic novel on selkies (or if you already have!) then query Ms. Clark with just your query letter and contact information. She prefers e-mailed queries which can be sent to: gc@cbltd.com She will respond only if interested in seeing more material.
Find more info on Ginger Clark here:
Find more info on selkies here:
Did you know about selkies before reading this post? Or better yet, have you already started a WIP featuring them??? Just researching this, we’re getting a few ideas ourselves…

RTW: Gotta Question For Ya…

Writing Song of the Day: “Question!” by System of a Down

Woo hoo, a little late to the party, but once again it’s Road Trip Wednesday!! Here’s this week question from the lovely ladies of YA Highway:

Interactive Q&A. Post a question on your blog then travel the highway answering others’ questions!

You liked how they flipped it on us, huh? We’re the ones asking the questions this week. Let’s get this party started:

Pam’s Question: Okay, I’m a little obsessed with Publishers Marketplace. By obsessed, I mean I check it at least twice a day to see all the new YA deals. I’ve noticed that when most people receive 3-book deals, it’s usually for dystopians or paranormals. I’m a fan of both genres, but my first love is contemporary, realistic fiction. My question is–

Aside from the Gossip Girl/The Clique/etc. series (though I have nothing against them), can you think of any realistic, contemporary trilogies? If not, why do you think these aren’t so popular?

Quita’s Question: Just like Pam, I’m also a fan of contemporary YA–but I also teach history, so I have love there, too. *pokes Pam because she’s falling asleep* I’ve written both contemporary and historical YA manuscripts separately, but I’d love to combine the two. Here’s the twist–I’d love to do that without using the classic: “Lookie here, I’ve discovered a letter/journal from the past” method. My question is–

Can you suggest any books that combines both historical and contemporary in a creative way?

We know we can count on you guys. You rawk!! πŸ™‚

Pam vs. Quita: First Drafts!

Writing Song of the Day: “First Love” by Adele

Pam Vs. Quita is a series in which we battle it out over our writing methods and you, our lovely followers, choose the successor…or at least let us know who you agree with more. πŸ™‚

Quita royally kicked Pam’s hind-pots on the first installment, which was all about story ideas. Now, we’re rumbling over how we get those dreaded first drafts done.
Pam’s Thoughts:

First drafts. Just typing those two words sends chills up and down my spine (or it could be I still have to ice my knee post-surgery). While, of course, I heart writing, I’m not the fan of the first draft. It takes SO much will power to shut off my internal editor and just get the damn story out.

Here’s the thing–I’m not a plotter nor a panster. I’m some weird hybrid of both (plonster?). I start outlining the first few chapters of my WIP. I tend to look at each chapter like a short story–I want to make sure that there’s always some kind of conflict that the protagonist is trying to overcome. If I hit a roadblock, I just start to write what I have. As looney tunes as it may sound, the characters eventually start to speak to me and steer the story the rest of the way. I then may get inspired and start outlining the remaining few chapters.

On my current WIP, I’m having trouble getting past that roadblock. So, my trusty cousin, Quita (though in this post, she shall be noted as My Ain True Enemy), downloaded the beta version of Scrivener for Windows for me. I plan on placing the scenes I’ve written so far on different note cards and rearranging them until I have an ah-ha moment. From there, I’ll either just write or plot out the remaining few chapters. A plontser, you see. The fun stuff is with revisions, but more on that later…

Quita’s Thoughts:

First drafts are sooo annoying, but fun at the same time. I’m a little bipolar about them, I guess. And impatient. That’s my biggest pet peeve about the first draft–why can’t all of the plots and ideas flow out of my head as quick as I’m thinking of them? I really wish there was a way to get some of those scenes out without having to type it all. Microsoft needs to come out with a stream of consciousness word program–the words appear as you think them!

But, I digress. How do I write my first draft? I don’t really have an interesting answer to this. It’s very simple: I just get it all out. I have my ideas outlined (for the most part) and then I just type it all up. As I go along, I change things and then my outline gets all scratched and ugly, but that’s okay πŸ™‚ That’s what programs like Scrivener are for–it’s about time for me to give up the paper and pencil method, I suppose. So, my first drafts are usually just “dumped” out for lack of a better word. I don’t self-edit, I just type it all and I worry about changing things later.

Okay that’s Round 2? Who’s the victor this week??

Debut Author Challenge #3: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard

Reading Song of the Day: “Just Like You” by Three Days Grace

The next installment of our 2011 Debut Author Challenge is a book that I’ve waited AGES to read. I’ve entered so many contests that I was lucky enough to win the pre-order as well as an ARC. But when I finally got Kirsten Hubbard’s Like Mandarin in the mail, I was a little…nervous. Why?

First, what if this book didn’t live up to the hype? I remember waiting eagerly for a book after reading so many great things about it only to feel like…whomp whomp. I didn’t want Mandarin to leave me feeling underwhelmed.

Second, I really like Kirsten. We’re friendly over the interwebz and she even spotted me at last year’s LA SCBWI conference and gave me a hug. What if I didn’t like her novel? I’d feel awful!

Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about that because this book is AWESOME! So awesome that I had to come up here and share it with you guys despite still being a little hazy post-surgery.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

It’s hard finding beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, but 14-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it’s not her mother’s pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When they’re united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town’s animal-head trophies, and searching for someplace magic. Grace plays along when Mandarin suggests they run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds plaguing their Badlands town. Because all too soon, Grace discovers Mandarin’s unique beauty hides a girl who’s troubled, broken, and even dangerous. And no matter how hard Grace fights to keep the magic, no friendship can withstand betrayal.

And now…

Top Four Things You Need to Know About Like Mandarin:

1. It’s realistic fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of other genres (In fact, I just swooned over Across the Universe here)–but me and Quita’s first love is and always will be realistic, contemporary fiction. Kirsten writes a true coming-of-age story, and though I’ve never stepped foot in Wyoming, it’s like I’ve met these characters before.

2. No boy comes to the rescue. Yeah, I like a good love interest every now and then, but sometimes boys just aren’t needed (shocking, I know). There are definitely good and bad guys that enter Grace’s life, but they don’t change or define her. Mandarin holds that power, and it’s refreshing to read a story about the evolution of female friendship.

3. Well, whaddyaknow, the mom is an actual character. There’s been a lot of talk about how there aren’t many parental figures in YA. While this never had any bearing on whether or not I liked a story, I love how Kirsten makes Grace’s mother so real. She’s not perfect, but she’s not some exaggerated monster, either. She has her flaws but there’s no denying she loves her children–and I couldn’t help but smiling when Grace realizes that, too.

4. You, too, will want to be like Mandarin. I mean, who hasn’t had a “Mandarin” in their high school? You know, the girl that everyone trash-talked but secretly envied. My Mandarin was actually named Vanessa. She was probably just as beautiful as Kirsten described Mandarin, and she drove guys crazy. However, the more I got to know her, the more human she became–and I love how accessible Mandarin becomes at the end of the novel. We see her layers, but she still intrigues us. That’s talented writing right there!

If you like…

Books: Her and Me and You by Lauren Strasnick, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald…then you’ll like Like Mandarin

Movies: Sixteen Candles, Thirteen, Can’t Hardly Wait…then you’ll like Like Mandarin

If you’ve read Like Mandarin, what are your thoughts? Have you ever wanted to be like someone else in high school?

We Gots Us an Award!

Feeling Lovely Song of the Day:

It’s always great to get awards. Especially awards that celebrate things you work really hard on…and believe us, we work hard to keep you all entertained here. So, yesterday after having a loooong day, we came home to this:

Yep, the Stylish Blogger Award from Caroline Tung Richmond!!! Thanks, Caroline- we truly appreciate it!!!! “throws confetti and balloons*–wait can you throw balloons??

So, the rules to accept the award this award is to thank and link back to the person who gave you the award, list 7 things about yourself and pass the award along to ten other awesomtastic, Stylish Bloggers, and finally contact said bloggers.

This, we can do!

7 Things about Pam and Quita:

*We are totes obsessed with the movie, Inception. Pam requested a Blu-ray player for Christmas just so we can watch Inception on it.

*We will murder a mo-fo if they mess with our family. WE can talk about them all we want, but if you speak out of turn, we’ll eff you up.

*Pam: When I was younger I was riding my bike, and one of my neighbors wanted me to chase him. He moved too quick, my front tire hit a curb and I hurt my hoo-ha…but I can still have babies someday!

*Quita: When I was younger, I was hyper. I was playing and ran into a long wooden stick hanging from the bed of a truck. I hit my head and still have trouble remembering things to this day…

*We LIVE for chocolate and peanut butter mixed.

*At around ages 9 and 10 we would write a few pages in our Lisa Frank (or any other) notebooks and read them out loud to each other. (Early on critique partners !)

*Going to the movie theater is one of our favorite past times. Unless of course they are crowded b/c we both have a slight case of agoraphobia πŸ˜‰

YEAH! Now you know seven new things about us and we get to the fun part!!! Here are ten other Stylish Bloggers that we would like to pass this award on to.

1.) Racquel Henry!
2.) Abby Stevens
3.) Glenna Walsh!
4.) Alicia Gregoire
5.) Emy Shin!
6.) Jessica Byam!
7.) Jamie Manning!
8.) Alex Mullarky
9.) Meredith (from Meredith Writes)
10.) Kate Scott

If you don’t know these bloggers, go check them out- NOW! Thanks again to Caroline!!! We will be in touch with our fellow Stylish Bloggers πŸ™‚

RTW: What’s In A Title?

Writing Song of the Day: “My Name Is” by Eminem

Those of you who are familiar with how we are know that we probably shouldn’t be writing a post on titles. I mean, we did have a contest before where asked people to title our NaNoWriMo projects…but it’s Wednesday, YA Highway Road Trip time, so we’ve gotta play along!

So, how do we come up with titles?

We put a bunch of different phrases in a hat, shake it up, and whatever we pull out that’s what we title our work.

That would be pretty cool, wouldn’t it?

Well, it’s not true.

Titles are pretty much secondary to us in the writing process. We just want to get the words out first and then we’ll go through that terrible task of creating a title. *shudders*

We both look for a central theme (or recurring theme/place/topic) that shows up in our work and then we try it out on each other. Some of our titles didn’t sound right at first until we went through the work and it all sunk in.

Also, we may look at a piece of dialogue that one of our characters says and sees if it’s universal enough to apply to the whole story. We heard one of our faves Courtney Summers used this tactic to title Some Girls Are and everyone knows that she RAWKS!

So, what about you- how do you come up with your titles?