Wednesday, July 21, 2010

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW...and don't know

"Write what you know."

We hear that common adage a lot and while I think it is such great advice for students and authors alike, I find myself wondering: but what if what you know is not the story you want to write? What if your life is actually the stuff other people's imagined stories are made of and all you used to dream of when your life hit those heart-wrenching parts of the "arc" was...the anti-life?

Been there. Writing that.

Those of you who have stood beside me through some of the hardest times in my life know. But only some of it. Honestly, telling people was as hard as writing about it. I couldn't bear (and bare) telling any one person all of the stories of my life. But, I couldn't not tell it either. My advice to friends going through tough times used to include the occasional eyebrow quirking comment that sounded a little too-knowledgeable, my journals used to have a hidden back story that hinted at baggage, and my short stories had an "underlying message" that used to peg it as mine in my fiction writing classes. All of it a little angry.

And I had the right to be angry. Parts of my life were awful. So what did I do? I started writing stories that made me feel better.

Escapist stories--they aren't just for the reader.

But even as I put pen to paper now, many years after those life stories I used to "escape" from through writing, I still find that I can't not tell those stories of my life. They're in there. I haven't escaped them. While the novel I write might not be the tear-jerking novels out there that sound remarkably like my actual life, it doesn't mean I'm not in there or that I'm not writing what I know. Trust me, when I was going through those tough times in my life, the anti-life was what I knew...where I would go...why I'm still here.

So when I hear, "You should write a novel about all the stuff you endured in your life," my reply is that I can write one filled with all the things I didn't have and still be telling my story. My escapist stories still have my life in it, just with a twist, and always with the telltale things that peg it as an anti-life original.
  • Strong heroines that kick-ass because I couldn't fight back? --> Check!
  • Bullies and abusers getting their just rewards? --> Double-check!
  • Different kinds of "brilliant" characters, even the streetsmart-got-crappy-grades-until-I-4.0'd-all-through-college-to-get-the-PhD-that-shocked-everyone sort? --> Check! (With a hell-yeah)
  • Happier endings to different chapters than I had myself? --> Resounding Check!
And the list goes on.

Yes, I could write the super angsty stories that I teach in my adolescent literature courses or the beautiful novels I cry through in one sitting without coming up for air, but honestly, the writer in me still remembers the writer I used to be--the girl who dreamed up the wondrous stories unlike what was going on in her life.

That was what I knew as a writer then. That is what I write as an aspiring author now.

And believe me, escapist stories can get mighty good when the author really had some escaping to do.

Now, there are those that say: "But you went through so much, don't you want others to learn from your story? Don't you want to talk about how you got through? What about all those who helped you?"

Three questions with three very different answers.

1) Sure I do, and they can still learn even if my stories are happier than my life had been. Truly. Just as my life is always there in my writing, as a reader, your lives and perceptions will be too. You will take away from a story exactly what is in you to take away from it. This is why one of my best friends found himself inexplicably choked up through Jersey Girl (Kevin Smith's one).

2) No. Maybe. Waaait, I think I do. Hmmm...I'll get back to you on that after you read my stuff. If you really don't see the triumph of "getting through," I'll sit with you and tell you my life story.

3) Ahhh, now that last one gets my tears going. It would be an outright lie to say my novels didn't pay homage to every one of those people who extended their hand to help me up when I was curled on the ground, who were my wall to lean on when I couldn't stand on my own. Maybe they don't have a character and a name like in a memoir but know that each of them are as a part of my story--both in life and on paper--as I am. Where do you think I learned to have that hope you see in my novels and in life? (Believe me, being an aspiring writer is all about hope. *grin*)

Upon more reflection, that third question now has me thinking about the one thing that perhaps may be missing from my stories of anti-life. At least in the "real life" sense it deserves to be.

Well, the internet doesn't have blogs for nothing so here goes:

While you won't ever have your names in a memoir of surviving tough times...while you won't ever read one of my characters and see the exact part you played in my life...and while your actions may not be placed on that literary pedestal that they have every right to be on...
  • Those of you who were the first to break the cruelly issued "don't talk to that girl" rule, ending the six weeks of utterly friendless, wrist-slicing silence I went through at the start of my seventh grade year;
  • Those who were my silent rock through the abuse you knew about and even more so the abuse you knew to be there even though I'd never uttered the words;
  • Those of you who were there to pick up the pieces after I was raped;
  • Those who actually saw me truly scared when I first found out about my brain condition;
  • And finally, to that one person who, knowing more than all of these people combined, still chose me, giving me my first real happy ending to a chapter and the start of many others since...
Know that I do truly thank you.

You all are "what I know" also.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

YA books coming in 2011

Sorry for the wait! Here is the list I promised: Books that are scheduled to come out in 2011. I LOVE to get y'all excited about the wide variety of book topics/story arcs that's coming down the pipeline. The list is focused mostly on debut authors (isn't it crazy how many awesome things are coming out next year by first-time pubbed authors?!) but I did also include a few from non-debut authors--titles that are different from what they have out now. Lastly, I'm going to start putting in the names of authors who you definitely need to keep an eye out for. They're cool tweeple who've recently gotten their amazing novels accepted by publishers. Enjoy! *All book summaries are from goodreads.com*

DEBUT AUTHORS


XVI by Julia Karr (January 2011)
In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand (January 2011)
In this first book of a thrilling trilogy about angels, one girl must choose between fulfilling her Purpose and following her heart. Clara has known she was part–angel ever since she turned fourteen two years ago. But now she is finally getting visions of what her Purpose—a rite of passage for every part–angel—is to be, and it happens to involve a gorgeous guy. Of course, there is the raging forest fire surrounding them, too. When Clara’s Purpose leads her family to Wyoming, Clara finds the boy of her visions, Christian, but complicating her mission are her growing feelings for another guy, Tucker. As the day in her visions draws closer, Clara discovers that her Purpose may play into a larger struggle between angels and Black Wings—fallen angels who spread sadness and misery wherever they go. But when the fire erupts and both Christian and Tucker are in danger, who will she choose to save? From debut novelist Cynthia Hand comes a riveting tale full of supernatural powers, forbidden romance, and the choice between fulfilling your destiny or following your heart.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton (February 2011)
This debut, the first novel in a trilogy, is achingly romantic, terrifying, and filled with blistering action. When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul. A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once. While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford (February 2011)
Eden didn’t expect Az. Not his saunter down the beach toward her. Not his unbelievable pick up line. Not the instant, undeniable connection. And not his wings. Yeah. So long happily-ever-after. Now trapped between life and death, cursed to spread chaos with her every touch, Eden could be the key in the eternal struggle between heaven and hell. All because she gave her heart to one of the Fallen, an angel cast out of heaven. She may lose everything she ever had. She may be betrayed by those she loves most. But Eden will not be a pawn in anyone else’s game. Her heart is her own. And that’s only the beginning of the end.

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Mouton (February 2011)
When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers - monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell - she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul. A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie's powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her - an assassin who has already killed her once. While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie's soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian's most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives - including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard (March 2011)
It's hard to find beauty in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming. Fourteen-year-old Grace Carpenter knows it's not her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances and pickup trucks adored by her small-town classmates. True beauty is wild girl Mandarin Ramey: seventeen, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. When the two misfits are united for a project, they embark on an unlikely, explosive friendship, packed with nights spent skinny-dipping in the canal, liberating the town's animal-head trophies, and constantly searching for someplace magic. Grace even plays along when Mandarin suggests they make a pact to run away together. Blame it on the crazy-making wildwinds that plague their badlands town. But 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, even the best friendships can't withstand betrayal.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris (2011)
Someone’s been a very bad zombie. Super-smartie Kate Grable gets to play doctor, helping out her high school football team. Not only will the experience look good on her college apps, she gets to be thisclose to her quarterback crush, Aaron. Then something disturbing happens. Kate finds out that the coach has given the team steroids. Except . . . the vials she finds don’t exactly contain steroids. Whatever’s in them is turning hot gridiron hunks into mindless, flesh-eating . . . zombies. Unless she finds an antidote, no one is safe. Not Aaron, not Kate’s brother, not her best friend . . . not even Kate . . . It’s scary. It’s twisted. It’s sick. It’s high school.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (March 2011)
In 1941, fifteen-year-old Lina, her mother, and brother are pulled from their Lithuanian home by Soviet guards and sent to Siberia, where her father is sentenced to death in a prison camp while she fights for her life, vowing to honor her family and the thousands like hers by burying her story in a jar on Lithuanian soil. Based on the author’s family, includes a historical note.

Across The Universe by Beth Revis (March 2011)
In the novel, set in the near future, a teenager is cryogenically frozen only to thaw too soon, before arriving at the new planet that's her destination. Set to wake 300 years in the future, She rouses 50 years too early, still on a spaceship in transit, with a murderer on board.

Memento Nora by Angie Smibert (July 2011)
Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened. However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories. The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (August 2011)
There’s an old ghost story in the town of Near. It tells of a Witch that lived on the edge of the village, and gobbled up all the darkness, and sang the hills to sleep, and loved the children almost as much as the garden she kept beside her house. Sixteen-year-old Lexi Harris has heard the stories her entire life, first from her father, and then from old Magda and Dreska Thorne, the two Witches who live on the edge of Near. Everyone loves to tell the story, but everyone knows a different ending. Some say that the Near Witch blew away on a gust of wind. Others tell of darker things. To Lexi, they’ve always been stories, nothing more. But when a strange and silent boy walks into the village of Near, and then the wind begins to lure children from their beds at night, she starts to wonder if there’s any truth in the tales. Why are the children vanishing? Who is the newcomer? And could the Near Witch be more than a ghost story?

Jessica Rothenberg's The Catastrophic History of You and Me (2011)
A 15-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart must pass through five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife...and restore her faith in love. Pitched as The Lovely Bones meets Forever.

Skin and Bones by Dawn Metcalf (Spring 2011)
When sixteen-year old Consuela Bones discovers she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypical teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering them, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.

The Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson (2011)
Two hundred years from now, the great cities of the west coast of the United Americas are under water. Blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet – especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antigens that protect them from the plagues that ravage the rest of the world. Sixteen year old Cassandra Mecredi might be aboriginal by blood, but without a totem animal, she cannot make sense of her visions or walk the paths of the spirit world. When her family is forced to leave their reservation, they flee east to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory free from the depredations of industry and sickness and under the control of the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors. There, Cassandra will become the apprentice to a wise woman, fall in love, and find her destiny when the creatures of spirit claim her as their own. For the spirit world is angry... and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument.

The Revenant by Sonia Gensler (2011)
Seventeen-year-old Willemina Hammond thinks it'll be simple to assume a new identity far away in Indian Territory. Anything would be better than laboring on her mother's failing farm in Tennessee. "Borrowing" the credentials of a local schoolteacher, she secures a position at the Cherokee Female Seminary and eagerly sets out toward an easier life in the summer of 1896. But the Seminary is not what Willie expected. It's more like a castle than a school, and it houses refined young ladies who couldn't be less like the rustic natives she imagined. Divided by prejudice, the school community still reels from the recent murder of a mixed-blood student by a spurned full-blood suitor. Spooky noises, cold spots, and violent accidents have convinced the students that the dead girl haunts them. All this makes for an uphill battle as Willie struggles to establish control over her high-strung pupils. To make matters worse, the ghost seems to be reaching out to her, and its communications are growing more frequent and intense. Willie determines to learn more about the girl's death, thinking it the only way to quiet the angry spirit. But the more she learns, the more difficult it is to maintain her secret identity. And the closer she gets to unraveling the secrets behind the murder, the closer she is to becoming a victim herself.

Dearly Departed by Lia Habel (2011)
As far as romantic pairings go in the year 2195, you don't get much more unlikely than an upper-class schoolgirl and a poor miner from enemy tribes. Filter in the fact that he's a zombie, and you're definitely talking about star-crossed love. Dearly, Departed is a cyber-Victorian/steampunk romance that takes place in the shadow of a new ice age. Nora Dearly, a mouthy teenage girl and apparent orphan, leaves school for Christmas - only to be dragged into the night by the living dead. Luckily for her, though, the good ones got to her first. From her reanimated rescuers she learns not only that zombies are roaming the countryside, but that her father is one - and that he's in terrible trouble. She also meets Captain Bram Griswold, a noble, strong, and rather sweet undead boy for whom she starts to fall. Meanwhile, her best friend, Pamela Roe, is just trying to carry on with life as best she can in the wake of Nora's disappearance - when she ends up killing an evil zombie in self-defense. Pam is galvanized into action, and ends up leading a group of survivors as the city of New London is thronged by the ravenous dead. Upon hearing of Pamela's plight, Nora and Bram set out to rescue her friends, find her missing father, and maybe just save what's left of the world.

The Bestest Ramadan Ever by Medeia Shariff (2011)
Almira Abdul, a Middle Eastern mutt of Syrian and Iranian origins, is fifteen going on sixteen and she’s fasting for Ramadan for the first time ever. Coinciding with the holy month is her first major crush with a boy named Peter, whom her best friend Lisa also is in love with. She also has a new enemy at school, catty Shakira Malik, a fellow Muslim who trades barbs with everyone. Her dentist father also proclaims that she needs braces. Along with the hectic month her grandfather, who knocks down mailboxes and garbage cans when parking, is teaching her how to drive in his tank-like car. The conflicts of having a continuously growling stomach, getting her driver’s license, repelling Shakira, and trying to win Peter prove how challenging the month of Ramadan is for Almira. BESTEST. RAMADAN. EVER. is an honest and humorous look at Almira’s life, her quest to fit in, and how her parents and old-fashioned grandfather clash in their generational differences.

Control Issues by Elana Johnson (2011)
In a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules aren't meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld does a hell of a job shattering them to pieces. When secrets about her "dead" sister and not-so-missing father hit the fan, Vi must make a choice: control or be controlled.

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (2011)
All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 13-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (2011)
"My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym. A nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange but trust me, it's the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much isn't good for my case. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count. And it's important that you know, so you're not next."


COOL NEW BOOKS BY AUTHORS YOU KNOW

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher (January 2011)
Welcome to a future where water is more precious than gold or oil-and worth killing for Vera and her brother Will live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge (February 2011)
A series set in a Lovecraftian industrial city in an alternate 1950s that centers on a mechanically gifted young girl approaching her 16th birthday, the age at which everyone in her family goes insane, leaving it up to her to unravel the mystery of their madness--and save the world. It is 1955...but not the 1955 you know. The Witchcraft Scare polarizes America. Magic is outlawed and practitioners are burned. And one girls has discovered that magic is neither fiction nor fairy tale, but very much alive... Aoife Grayson is a month shy of sixteen, the age when everyone in her family goes mad. An orphan in the steam-powered city of Lovecraft, Massachusetts, Aoife escapes the confines of her repressive boarding school and along with her best friend Sam and outlaw guide Dean, sets out to discover the secret of her family's madness. What she discovers is a world of forbidden magic and faerie curses, and a dark secret that has shadowed the Grayson family for generations. Aoife must choose between keeping the secret or keeping her sanity, and unravel the dark machinations of the Winter Court of the Fae before it's too late to save her city...or herself.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (February 2011)
Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy. But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

I am J by Cris Beam (March 2011)
"Hola, Jeni." J spun. His stomach clenched hard, as though he'd been hit. It was just the neighbor lady, Mercedes. J couldn't muster a hello back, not now; he didn't care that she'd tell his mom he'd been rude. She should know better. Nobody calls me Jeni anymore. J always felt different. He was certain that eventually everyone would understand who he really was: a boy mistakenly born as a girl. Yet as he grew up, his body began to betray him; eventually J stopped praying to wake up a "real boy" and started covering up his body, keeping himself invisible - from his family, from his friends...from the world. But after being deserted by the best friend he thought would always be by his side, J decides that he's done hiding - it's time to be who he really is. And this time he is determined not to give up, no matter the cost. An inspiring story of self-discovery, of choosing to stand up for yourself, and of finding your own path - readers will recognize a part of themselves in J's struggle to love his true self.

Medusa Girls by Tera Lynn Childs (2011)
New series, in which triplet descendants of Medusa learn they are destined to guard the door between the world of monsters and the world of men – pitched as a mythological Charmed.

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (2011)
A dystopian middle-grade fantasy novel about kids who are exiled from their homeland when they display signs of creativity to a hidden world where they are trained to use their abilities and hone their magical skills.

Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore (2011)
For as long as Esmerine can remember, she has longed to join her sister as a siren, the highest calling a mermaid can have. But when her sister runs away to the mainland, reportedly to elope with a human, Esmerine is sent to retrieve her. Using magic to transform her tail into legs, she makes her way unsteadily through the streets of New Sweeling. There, she will come upon a friend she hasn't seen since childhood - Alandare, a boy, now a man, who belongs to a winged race of people. Together, Esmerine and Alandare put aside their differences to find her sister, and in the process discover a love that cannot be bound by land, sea, or air.

Something Like Hope by Shawn Goodman (2011)
Shavonne is a fierce and desperate seventeen year-old who finds herself in a large juvenile lockup hundreds of miles from home. She wants to turn her life around before she turns eighteen, but her problems seem too big, and time is running out. Amidst corrupt guards, out-of-control girls, and shadows from her past, Shanvonne must find the courage to fight for a redemption she’s not sure she deserves.

DEBUT AUTHORS TO KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR
Jodi Meadows
Kathleen Peacock
Michelle Hodkin -- just got bk summary -->moved her up there ^
Veronica Roth
Gretchen McNeil
Beth Revis
Rae Carson