RTW: Best Books of August!

Reading Song of the Day: “What It Is to Burn” by Finch

It’s Wednesday, so let’s hit the road with the lovely ladies of YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week they want to know:

What’s the best book you’ve read in August?
Well, since you’re asking…
Pam’s Choice:

So, I didn’t get to read nearly as much as I wanted to this summer, let alone August. But I have a sneaking suspicion that my answer would still be this book right here:

If you’ve been following this site for a while, you may know how much I gawked over Steve Brezenoff’s The Absolute Value of -1. So much so, in fact, that I kind of stalked his life at the LA SCBWI conference so that I could nab an early copy of this book. He was really awesome about it–he signed it for me and everything. 🙂
Now, Brooklyn, Burning. Wow. I’m utterly speechless about what I can say about it. I was nervous to read it since I loved his first YA novel so much, but Brezenoff does not disappoint. I’ve never been a fan of imagery (guess because it’s my weakness), but he uses this incredible cocktail of naturalness and poetry to describe Brooklyn; the city was painted before my eyes even though I’ve never been there before (shame, since that’s my dad’s hometown). And as some of you may have heard, neither the narrator, Kid, nor Kid’s love interest’ genders were revealed. I LOVED this–I was able to imagine these two characters the way I wanted to, and I ended up becoming very protective over them.
I’ll end with: read this book. Now. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy beautiful writing and breaking rules, then this is the book for you.

Quita’s Choice:

I sooooo wish I could say I met the author of the novel that I chose as the best book I read in August. I did e-mail Blake Nelson once and HE RESPONDED! That’s almost as good as meeting him, right?? Anyway, you loyal followers have heard me love all over Mr. Nelson before (Paranoid Park, The New Rules of High School, etc.) but Recovery Road is by far THE BEST book I’ve read of his!

This is the first book of Nelson’s that I have read from a girl’s POV and the man is just as much as master at capturing the female’s teen voice as he is at capturing the male’s. The book goes on a roller coaster with the MC, Maddie as she battles her addictions, and struggles to keep her first true love…who, by the way, she fell in love with at rehab.

A MUST READ!!!

What about you all…what’s the best book you read in August??

How That Bee-yatch Irene Did Some Good

Writing Song of the Day: “Hurricane” by 30 Seconds to Mars


REJOICE! Me and Pam finally have our power back and we can get back to blogging. This is the order of things that we missed during our 48 + hours of no power:
1.) Lights

2.) TV and Internet

3.) Hot food

4.) Air conditioning

5.) TV and Internet
Did we mention TV and Internet??

During that time of no power due to the evil wench, Irene, we were able to come up with some positives. Without having the distraction of aforementioned TV and Internet, me and Pam were able to accomplish some writerly things. And because of that we present to you….

The Writer’s Survival Kit During a Power Outage:

(The kit that all writers must have when a big storm or other natural disasters are headed their way)
At least TWO fully charged laptops: If you don’t have them charged then go to the nearest relative/Starbucks/book store that has working electricity and charge them up! You need two just in case you can’t find another charging source…oh and keep the power turned OFF while you’re not using them!

Your smart phone–charged: This way you can stay in touch with what’s going on with the writing world through Twitter and e-mail. You car goes with this one. If you’re like me and Pam and you have a car charger then that will definitely come in handy 🙂
Your jump drive: Hopefully you already have one with all of your ideas, WIPs etc. saved on it. Make sure you keep saving to it just in case your battery dies on laptops one and two.
Reading material: Whether it is fiction or nonfiction. Both Pam and myself got in a lot of reading using our e-readers and candle light. Pam started reading Boy Toy by Barry Lyga and I began the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead . Also Pam read more of Wants before she sends it back to her super agent,and I read some of Writing and Selling the YA Novel by K.L. Going. You MUST have at least two books on hand and if you have an e-reader, make sure that’s fully charged, too.

Notebook(s): When those bright ideas hit you (hopefully when it’s bright outside, or else write by flashlight) and you run out of battery.

Snacks: Hopefully power snacks like granola and fruit…but more realistically Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (you have to eat it before it melts), Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies, Lays Baked Barbecue Chips, Pretzels, Peanut Butter Crackers, etc.

And of course batteries, flash lights, candles, and ice: Keep the lights shining for reading and writing, and the ice to keep that ice cream good and frozen–at least for two nights!

That’s it! Go ahead and start creating that kit. Oh and just like always, we’re open to suggestions, so, what would you add to this list?

Class Is In Session: YA Wish List

Reading Song of the Day: “School” by Nirvana

So, me and Pam’s career goals as of late have consisted of two things:

1.) Teach Creative Writing (on a post-secondary level)

2.) Teach a YA Literature course
With it being so close to back to school time *crying on the inside*, we thought we’d have a little fun with our career option # 2.


What would we do if we could create the perfect YA reading list for a course all about young adult literature?

You wanna know the answer????


Good! ‘Cause we wanna tell you!!! If we could choose the best books to represent all of the major YA sub genres, here is what our syllabus would consist of:

Contemporary/Realistic:

Looking for Alaska by John Green


&



Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Face it, you can’t have a YA literature course without including these two masters of young adult novels. Both books represent real raw, teen emotion. The stories last with the reader and the voices are distinct and believable. That’s the key to a great contemporary realistic novel.


Historical:




Judy Blundell’s historical is set after World War Two, but that’s not the focus. This novel could resonate with anyone during any time period. A good historical should put you in the time period, which Blundell does with her slang, her settings, her character’s mannerisms etc. but the story itself should be timeless.


Paranormal:



City of Bones by Cassandra Clare


This novel takes any idea you have about paranormal books and turns it on its head! It has non stop action, a believable romance, and the characters, both human and supernatural, are relatable. Perfecto!


Steampunk:



Leviathan by Scott Westerfield


Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare was thisclose to being on the list, but we have heard so many people rave about Leviathan and how it is possibly the quintessential steampunk YA novel. Alas, we have yet to read it (it’s in my bookshelf, waiting to be read…) but after hearing so many people rave about how great it is, we kinda can’t wait.

Dystopian:



Divergent by Veronica Roth


Most readers expect a dystopian to excite them and take them to a world so unlike their own. Divergent does this and more. The dystopian element is unique, with teens having to choose where they will grow up and get jobs based on a simulated test, but the dystopian element is not what keeps the reader interested in the story. The vivid characters and relationships do. A MUST read!


Magical Realism:



Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver


Magical realism is basically when you have a contemporary and realistic setting, but something unrealistic occurs in this world, yet the reader doesn’t feel like it’s magic. Lauren Oliver does this perfectly with this novel. The main character re-lives one day over and over, but we still feel like everything that happens to her is so real.


Romance:

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


Obviously we all know what makes a good romance novel. Believable romance. And Perkins creates just that with this novel. Not only do we get to see the relationship build over time, but we are rewarded for our wait in the end!


Post Apocalyptic:




These novels are fun because we hope they never happen in real life. Especially Ryan’s novel about a zombie apocalypse! Ryan hooks the reader with an interesting love square, conflict and turmoil at every turn, and of course hope. The perfect formula for perfect post apocalyptic.


Novel in Verse:



Crank by Ellen Hopkins


The mother of verse novels! There’s not much to be said, except how in the world did this woman create a story using poetry?


Science Fiction:



Feed by M.T. Anderson


This is a novel about the future where people have a feed of technology into their heads. How much more science fiction-y can you get? Plus, this book is just full of pure genius. Wouldn’t we all love to know what he was thinking when he wrote it?


Horror/Thriller:


The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith


This is the new “thing” in YA. Most agents are itching for some horror and thriller, and Smith’s novel really delivers. The story of a kidnapped boy going through hurdles to get away from his captor is enticing, nail biting, and gut wrenching. Classic horror/thriller.


Okay, who wouldn’t LOVE to be in this class??? Of course, we are mere mortals (or so you all think) with humble opinions. We would love to hear what you think should be added (or replaced) on our YA Literature course wish list. Best answer gets an “A”!

RTW: Chipping The Block

Writing Song of the Day: “Writer’s Block” By Royce Da 5’9 ft. Eminem

It’s Wednesday and guess what happens for us tomorrow?? We go back to work *cries, kicks, screams*.

But in the mean time, we’re hanging out with the ladies of YA Highway for another Road Trip Wednesday. This week’s topic is:

How do you beat writer’s block?

We have two major steps that we go through in order to kick writer’s block a**. They go a lil’ something like this:

1.) Leave it be. You know the saying: a watched pot doesn’t boil? Well a mulled over, stared at, stalked manuscript will also not write itself. If we’re stuck, we leave that idea alone. Whether it’s writing something else (a poem, a short story, plotting a new idea), exercising, or our favorite past times, eating, and watching TV 🙂

2.) Talk it out. Just like when you’re joints are achy and you have to shake them out…when a story is blocked, just talk it out. Preferably with your amazing writing partner/cousin. Don’t have one? You can hire me or Pam for the job 🙂 Really, this works wonders. Pam worked out a major revision point for Wants just by talking about it out loud to me.

We’re always looking for more advice, peeps. What do you all do to beat writer’s block?

MFA = Mutha Bleepin’ Awesome!!

Writing Song of the Day: “Lesson Learned” by Ray LaMontagne

Sorry we’ve been MIA this past week again. You see, Quita and I just “graduated” with our MFAs in creative writing. So why “graduate” and not graduate? Because even though we presented our theses and marched across the stage, we still have to defend our theses to a panel. Yikes. And that’s an understatement.
There’s been a lot of buzz lately over whether or not an MFA is really worth it. My lovely agent, Sarah LaPolla, recently wrote an awesome blog post that gives other suggestions in case you’re not willing to shell out the dough for an MFA degree. Hmm, where was this list 2 years ago? But I digress…
Quita and I have been through so much with this program, but we wanted to narrow it down to the TOP 5 THINGS WE’VE LEARNED THROUGH MFA-DOM:
THING #1: RED INK IS YOUR FRIEND

This program truly, TRULY taught us the importance of revision. As an undergraduate, my idea of revising was to change a verb to an action verb (“He STRODE to the door” is much better than “He walked to the door”). But I have to admit, submitting the first few chapters of Wants to my modules probably helped me nab my agent. I understood why it worked better in 1st person POV, and why the voices needed to be more distinctive.
THING #2: NOBODY’S OUT TO GET ME

There’s an inside gag between Quita, Racquel, and me involving the movie, Karate Kid. It’s all based on a critique I received from one of my classmates. At the time, I was highly insulted, but once I allowed his feedback to marinate, I understood what he meant: avoid cliches. There’s no point of getting defensive during a group critique. Everyone’s in the program to become better writers, not to bash your creative mojo.
THING #3: ENOUGH WITH THE EXCUSES!

At first, Quita and I thought we were SO misunderstood because only a handful of our classmates wrote YA. “They just don’t get it,” we’d cry out to each other, wiping our tears with Five Guys fries. But you know what? Good writing is good writing–it doesn’t matter if you’re writing a coming of age story, or about a 77-year-old widower reentering the dating scene. We were there to improve our craft. Period.
THING #4: PICK UP SOMETHING DIFFERENT FROM THE BOOKSHELVES

I’ve read a few books during the MFA program that I would have NEVER read on my own. Some of them I ended up loving, others I wanted to hurl out of a window. Overall, I loved the challenge. I’ve been reading so much YA lately, which I love–but I also enjoy trying new things. This is a habit I’ll be sure to continue.
THING #5: LOOK…PEOPLE!

We’ve all heard that writing is solitary work, so I wasn’t expecting to actually make friends with anyone in the program (plus, I had Quita. I guess she’s my friend even though we’re related). But I actually got a bit weepy on graduation night knowing it would be the last time I may actually see some of my classmates. What I loved most about my 10-day residencies was just talking books and writing to people that loved them as much as I do. I did make some lifelong friends, too–including our lovely adopted sis, Racquel, who we started Black Fox Literary Magazine with!
So yeah. The money was totally worth it to us–not to mention we’d love to someday get the opportunity to teach writing to others, and the MFA degree can aid in that (of course, you also need a solid publication history, but that’s just logistics, darling).
Any of you in an MFA program or considering applying to one? What are you most looking forward to learn?

Friday Fives: OMG, I LOVE You!

Greeting Song of the Day: “Hello, I Love You” by The Doors

It’s Friday. Quita and I are usually WAY happier about that, but this weekend…we have to present our MFA theses. Gulp. On the plus side, we also get to graduate and party–woo hoo!!

Another plus? That we get to share Friday Fives with you! This week, Paper Hangover wants to know:


Which FIVE authors are YOU dying to meet?

We got to meet so many ah-may-zing authors last weekend at the SCBWI Conference–many who would’ve made this list, such as Ellen Hopkins, Steve Brezenoff, and Laurie Halse Anderson (who we found out actually mentioned us to other people at the conference. Say what?!!!). However, there are still five–okay, we cheated–SEVEN more authors we’d love to rub elbows with:

1. John Green: So yeah, I almost cried when I found out he couldn’t make it to the conference last weekend due to gallbladder removal surgery. However, having had this procedure myself, I’m aware of how much it can suck–so I hope he recuperates well so that I can stalk…I mean, MEET him some time in the near future.

2. Cormac McCarthy/Joyce Carol Oates: Quita loves these two. I mean, really LOVES them. She couldn’t stop raving about Zombie after reading it, and her fan-girl moments over McCarthy inspired me to make one of my characters in Wants be a huge fan of his work, as well.

3. Courtney Summers: What can I say about Ms. Summers that I already haven’t said on this blog? That I think she’s awesome? Yep, already went there. That I want to be her when I grow up (despite the fact that I’m older)? Yeah, check that off too. Every page she’s ever written just leaves me in complete awe.

4. Blake Nelson: Another favorite of Quita’s. She says that he NAILS (yes, she was that enthused) the teen voice, and even when it seems like he’s writing about nothing, she can’t peel her eyes away. Hmm, I think it’s about time I pick up one of his books…

5. Jodi Picoult/Stephen King: I couldn’t choose between my two favorite adult writers! King is the Master of Suspense–if I ever have a problem with tension or pacing, I like to refer to one of his works. And Jodi? A few years ago, when I was bombarded with reading things that I did NOT want to read for my English classes, Jodi reminded me what it was that I loved about stories in the first place. Her characters are so real and heartfelt.

So, I know we left a few of our faves out, so maybe we’ll update this list in the future. What about you all? What authors are you loving up on?

Time is on Your Side (SCBWI:Take Two)

Informing Song of the Day: “Time is Running Out” by Muse



Yesterday we showed you what we did at the SCBWI LA Conference through some very professional cell phone photographs. And we promised we would share some of the highlights today. There were sooooo many major moments that we witnessed, keynotes from Libba Bray, Gary Paulsen, and Richard Peck. Sessions with editors Jennifer Hunt from Dial, Alessandra Balzar , and authors Sarah Stewart, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Halse Anderson. And although EVERYTHING we did this past weekend was full of awesome, perhaps the most awesome was Laurie Halse Anderson’s session on making time for writing.


I must admit, I’m a little biased. I went into the session KNOWING I was going to adore whatever came out of her mouth–she is one of my fave writers after all. But when me and Pam entered that room and became engrossed with the talk, (just like the other people squeezed in the tiny room with us) I knew Ms. Anderson was giving us some truly GREAT advice. Okay, I’ll stop teasing and get to the deets.

Before that session, we were quick to say things like:

“But, we don’t have any tiiiime to write!”

“We can write after So You Think You Can Dance goes off.”

OR

“Who can maintain a full time job, a family, and writing? Only a super hero!”


Now, after listening to her speak (no pun intended) we understand that using all of those excuses was our way of masking the fear that we have about writing. Ms. Anderson said that when we write about teen emotions we’re usually revisiting those times in our lives, leaving us vulnerable. That vulnerability leads to fear.

How do you get rid of that fear and stop making excuses then? Ms. Anderson had us do two quick activities where we list our “Top Five Time Consumers” –we had to put the top five things that take up our time on a daily basis. TV showed up on both mine and Pam’s list. Then we had to write the five most important things to us…TV showed up on my list again. I had to be honest. This made Pam and me realize that we spend WAY too much time watching TV. So, as soon as the session ended, me and Pam scurried to our room and did this:

**If you look real closely,you can make out the titles…what do you see that you’re guilty of watching, too :)**

That is the list of every TV show we watch during a given week. We went through and scratched off the shows we were willing to give up, made a note of “maybes” –the shows we would give a trial run, and then checked off the gems we knew we couldn’t stop watching (Supernatural, Boardwalk Empire, anyone??).

And then we felt a weight lift off of our shoulders. Now, we won’t fall back on those old excuses and we will do what Laurie Halse Anderson quoted from William Faulkner: “Don’t be a writer, be writing.”

Tell us, what are some of your time wasters? And what are you willing to give up???