Writing with Headphones

Today I’m over at OneFour Kidlit talking about how I created a playlist for The Chance You Won’t Return and why that helped me through the writing process. (Plus gifs, of course.)

Another song that felt just right for The Chance You Won’t Return was “Simple Song” by the Shins:

I especially like the chorus: “Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, to play like a stone / Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical / As this little home!” It totally reminds me of Alex trying to hide all the drama at home from her boyfriend and friends. And the song itself has that great forward momentum that I associate with a lot of the songs from the TCYWR playlist.

Do you associate certain songs with your books/characters? Share them in the comments!

You Always Know You’re a Writer

At Limebird Writers, Kate has a great post about when you know you’re a writer and if that affects your writerly journey. She makes the point that, for some, it’s not something you decide to do and can really plan a career for. I especially like:

“Sometimes, writers don’t even decide to be writers. Rather, we accidentally fall in love with storybuilding. Forget planning futures and budgets and retirement. We are so rip-roaring drunk on words that we can’t tear ourselves away long enough to think logically, rationally.

For those of us who are writers long before we recognized the symptoms, how could we possibly prepare ourselves in advance? No wonder I didn’t have a mentor. No wonder I didn’t keep my early stories. Should I really be surprised? I didn’t know what I was! I didn’t know I was already on my quest.”

Like Kate, I didn’t know I was a writer just because I liked making up stories. I thought everyone liked making up stories! Of course I filled marble notebooks with characters and the first page or two of stories that were blatant knock-offs of whatever you were reading at the time–that’s what everyone did in their spare time, right? Eventually I realized that writing (or reading) wasn’t something everyone did for fun and found that it was something people got to do as a career. What could be cooler than that?

And even though I studied English literature and creative writing, that doesn’t mean you need to do the same to be a writer. Like Kate says in her post, there aren’t specific guidelines or paths for writers in the same way there are for doctors or lawyers. Being a writer means a million different things to a million different people. But for most of us, part of it means that need to share stories that you’ve always felt.

Make sure to check out the full post.

Memory and Story

On McSweeney’s, a touching piece by John Hodgman, delivered at a literary reading shortly after September 11, 2001. Definitely read the whole piece, but one part that particularly struck me:

“So if art cannot contain or describe this event, and if for now the suffering is too keen to be alleviated by parable… if stories are for the moment not as critically needed, as courage, as medicine, as blood, as bacon, they can at least revert to this social function. As time goes on, this will all pass away into memory, into a story with a beginning and a middle and finally an end. And that transition from the real into fable will bring its own kind of comfort and pain.”

It’s been twelve years since that day, and I like this idea of the transition to stories being needed. It’s hard to comprehend tragedy, especially in the moment, but as we move further and further away from the event itself, stories become more relevant. Memories become story and stay with us and transcend the individual. That means dealing with both the good and the bad, or “comfort and pain,” both of which are needed through the passing years.

Also, School Library Journal suggests resources for 9/11.

Links Galore

A few links for your Tuesday:

Friday Fifteen

Man, did I need Friday. Let’s celebrate with a few fifteen-word (or fewer) book reviews:

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Now I know what everyone’s been raving about for the last year. Read it now.

2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Wasn’t a read-aloud in our house; what stands out for me is the color palette.

3. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
I watched a few episodes of The Tudors and recognized characters because of this play.

4. All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John
I should read this aloud to houseplants as a warning.

5. Claudia and the New Girl (The Baby-sitters Club, #12 by Ann M. Martin
I learned about Andrew Wyeth from this book. Well played, Martin.

Coming to a Bookstore/Mailbox Near You

So I’ve been talking about my book for a little while now. The official sales announcement. Copyedits. Proofreading. The title change. But until now, The Chance You Won’t Return has been seen by only a few people. That’s about to change, now that it’s available for pre-order!

That’s right–now you can find The Chance You Won’t Return at IndieBound, Amazon, Powell’s, and other places you may enjoy buying books! And if online choices overwhelm you, you can also add the book to your Goodreads list and give yourself a few months to decide.

Okay, so the book isn’t technically out until April 22, 2014, but just seeing it at these online book vendors makes me super excited. This is real and maybe someday The Chance You Won’t Return will be read by people I don’t even know. As always, the only true expression of my emotions is in gif form:

Here’s to continuing that wild ride on the road to publication! (Especially if that ride is on a hippogriff.)

Links Galore

Lots of good links for today:

Weight in YA and Book Deal Breakers

At Stacked, Kelly talks about how fat stereotypes are her book deal breaker. I freaking love this post. You should read through the whole thing, but some parts I particularly liked:

“It makes me feel ashamed that the message of most YA books featuring fat characters is that your body is wrong, it’s going to kill you, it’s going to hold you back, and it’s not worth the space it takes up on this planet. Because this is a message we already send teenagers

What I want is for a teen to pick up a book that features a fat character who isn’t a silly sidekick or a laughing stock. Who isn’t seeking a way to better herself by losing weight.”

A-freakin’-men. As an overweight kid, I was particularly sensitive to these kinds of portrayals in children’s books. I remember reading some of the Sweet Valley Twins books, which featured Lois Waller, who was defined by how much she weighed and what food she ate. (Also, in a universe of Jessicas and Elizabeths and Lilas, of course the fat girl has a dowdy name like Lois.) Granted, it’s not like the Sweet Valley books were written to push literary boundaries and create compelling characters, but it reinforced the idea that only the perfect-size-6 Jessicas and Elizabeths can have interests and personalities and hobbies, whereas the we Loises were only defined by our size.

I don’t think YA authors try to only write about thin characters or to depict overweight characters with that being their only characteristic. But I think we, as writers, need to think more carefully about how these characters are represented and how our stories deal with characters of all sizes. So often I roll my eyes at depictions of characters who, when stressed or upset, suddenly lose their appetite. This is a totally realistic reaction to stress, but so is having a cupcake, and not many novels I can think of mention having a cupcake as a reaction to feeling stressed. Things like this may seem minor, but they can have a big impact on readers.

Like Kelly, I’d love to see stories about “fat” characters that don’t have anything to do with their sizes. About heavier girls fighting dragons, about overweight guys engaged in student council political drama, about any topic YA usually covers. In high school, I had a lot of friends of various sizes, and we all went to prom, had fights with our parents, dealt with grief, went driving with the windows down and great music playing. YA should reflect that.

Make sure to read Kelly’s post. And while I’m reminded of it, I’ll leave off with a great quote by JK Rowling about how we use “fat” to describe people in a negative light:

“Fat’ is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her…[Is] ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?”

Let’s stop looking at fat as the worst thing a person can be, and the only thing that can define someone. It’s certainly one of my book deal breakers, too.

Friday Fifteen

Friday, you could not come soon enough. Let’s kick off the weekend with some good ol’ fifteen-word (or fewer) book reviews:

1. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
Was expecting more sci-fi; reminded me of The Tree of Life, in a good way.

2. Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
Only read this epistolary medieval children’s novel once, but it’s stayed with me. Should reread.

3. The Berenstain Bears No Girls Allowed by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Sexism sucks. We read this one often, which probably explains a lot about me.

4. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle
In which I learned what mitochondria are and what cherubim really look like.

5. Conversations with J. K. Rowling by Lindsey Fraser
Because everything Rowling-related made me teary with the feels.

Links Galore

A few more links for your afternoon: