Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rendition of my blog's theme song

My husband found this video on YouTube of my blog's theme song being played by the coolest beatboxing flautist you have ever seen.  (Who else could die over the word "flautist"? LOVE it.)  It really starts jamming about 30 seconds in.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friendship in KidLit is important

On Saturday I was able to spend a huge chunk of time catching up with two long-time girlfriends.  17 years after graduating from high school (oh wow, I just did that math- OLD) my best childhood friends are still my best friends.  Of course the realities of life mean that we don't get together as often as we would like, and we no longer know every detail about the others' days, but we've been through so much together and known each other for so long that our friendship base holds strong. 
Like any good writing nerd, I looked to see how I would relate my Saturday to my writing or YA/MG literature in general.  In thinking about friendship while scanning my bookshelves, I realized how many fewer YA novels have a friendship as the major relationship, as opposed to a romantic one.  As lovely and compelling as romance at that age can be, I adamantly feel that your childhood friends have a much deeper and lasting impact on your character and your life than boyfriends/girlfriends from that same age. 

So, why does romance rule this genre?  I don't know the exact answer and it's Sunday so I don't want to think too hard.  Instead I am highlighting some of my favorite friendships appearing on my bookshelf and that are a main component of the novel.
1. Harry, Ron, and Hermione from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  Seven years of the kind of friendship I hope my kids will have someday (with or without magic).
2. Cammie, Bex, Liz, and Macey from the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter. Talk about supporting your friends- spies in training give new meaning to the phrase!
3. Augie and T.C. from My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger. Augie and T.C. decided that they were brothers in the second grade and they stuck to that level of closeness right on through high school.
4. John, Jack, and Charles from The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series by James A. Owen.  Even though the characters are men, not kids, I think the adventure that is the basis for the formation of this friendship is youthful and incredibly magical.
5. Isi and Enna from The Goose Girl and Enna Burning by Shannon Hale.  These are two of my favorite characters in the entire YA genre.  Their friendship is such an important part of these novels because they literally need each other in order to balance their speaking (their powers) out.
6. Cassie, Lydia, and Emily from The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. They will lie, manipulate, and scheme for each other.  How can you not love that?

What are your favorite YA/MG friendships?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Three things that are NOT my revisions

Revisions are not happening today (and they didn't yesterday either, sigh) but here are three things I wanted to share.

1. Here is one of the photos (maybe the most fun) from my recent trip to Ireland.  We don't know why Peter thinks so little of himself.  We did not end up going to see him that night, but I am sure he was not, in fact, a Dud.

2. I paid a visit to my local library this evening and picked up a few books that are on my GOODREADS "To-Read" List including The Giver by Lois Lowry, Shrimp and Cupcake by Rachel Cohn, and Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

3. When I was at Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace conference in the Spring I wrote and submitted a short short to an online literary magazine.  The piece was not accepted for publication, but I do like it and thought I would share it here.  It's called Last Ride:

There was something indecent in the way she drank her soda, the way her lips wrapped around the bottle top sucking out the root beer.  It made me angry watching her and a little bit almost turned on.  She took her last sip as we were boarding the 36 bus and I thought the driver was going to wet his pants.  I thought I would say something to her about it.  A snarky comment that would hurt her feelings just a little.  But she turned to me just then as we were sitting down and smiled her radiant smile and told me how much she was going to miss me this summer.  I told her I would miss her too.  She meant it. 

We had been best friends for five years, a long time when you are 14.  It was the last day of school.  Tonight she was leaving to spend the summer with her grandparents and I was staying here.  I knew already that our friendship would not last until the fall; not for the reason everyone may think- that she was beautiful and I was not and high school didn’t work that way.  No, not exactly.  She would stick by me.  She was like that.  It was me.  My affection for her would always have to compete with my jealousy and I knew the day was quickly coming when jealousy would always come out on top.  It had just about arrived.

The ride to my stop took exactly 13 minutes.  I held her hand- this was the last day we were still young enough to do that.  I watched our reflections in the window and drank in her beauty.  I would miss being this close to it.

As we got closer I started to cry.  She thought I was crying because we would be separated for the summer and she began to cry too.  I was crying because I would have to spend the summer trying to forget all the good things about being her friend and because I would miss her almost as much as I wouldn’t.

The bus stopped and we hugged, saying our iloveyous through tears.  The sunlight was hitting the windows as the bus pulled away and I could not see her waving but I knew she was.  Of course she was.  She was the good friend.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

My very own Mary Sue

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I am undertaking pretty large-scale revisions on An Unexpected Kingdom, based in large part on advice from my critique partner, Rena.  (Thank you, Rena!)  The critique point that required the most change was one that, while difficult to hear, confirmed a worry that was lingering at the back of my mind: namely, that Ava (my main character) is a bit of a Mary Sue.  In case it isn't clear- that is a bad thing.  A Mary Sue means slightly different things to different people but the basic definition is a character that is entirely too good (good at everything, liked by everyone, special beyond all measure, etc.).  It is generally acknowledged to be a common flaw with inexperienced writers and is often said to be a representation of the person the writer wishes he or she could be.  So, YIKES!  Now, Ava is not the worst of what a Mary Sue can be.  In fact, I took a test, The Original Fiction Mary-Sue Litmus Test, and only scored a 49 of which the test said: 36-55 points: Mary-Sue. Your character needs some work in order to be believable. But despair not; you should still be able to salvage her with a little effort. Don't give up. 
The thing is, and the reason I have been so resistant to altering Ava, is that she is based on an actual person who truly is that great (beautiful, sweet, incredibly smart, talented at everything she does).  Ava is not my cousin Annie, but that is where the inspiration came from and so it seems strange to now pull back and say, "no one is that wonderful", because occasionally people are; Annie is.  BUT, what Rena made me realize is that I can have Ava a generally wonderful kid (although some slight alterations are necessary), but realistically not everyone will like her- because that is truth.  No one is universally liked.  So: revise, revise, revise.  I am procrastinating like you wouldn't believe.  But I don't want to make rookie mistakes, so revise I must.