Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I was going to write this super-cool awesome post about making time for writing.
I don't have the time to write it now.
Monday, October 26, 2009
The winners for PJ Hoover's books are....
This weekend was unexpectedly short--I swear, someone came by and stole a whole day and a half of it!! I will draw winners for the two books by PJ this afternoon, after work, I promise!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Dude. Dude. Have you heard of Michael Franti? He's a musician. Not the kind preteens scream at, or the kind women with husbands think about in ways they shouldn't--but he's the kind of musician that I wish lived nearby, so we could hang out and talk, and, failing that, the kind that I could just shake his hand and say thank you for the music.
I first heard of Michael Franti with his most recent, most popular piece, "Say Hey (I Love You)." It's fun and energetic and fills my soul with joy. And I can't possibly put the smile the song gives me into words, so instead, here's the music video:
Now, this is a writing blog, not a music one, but no worries: I actually do have a writing point to make with it.
See, this song--it's not about the words. It's about the feeling. Yes, the words are catchy, easy to remember, and easier to sing to. But the thing that made this song so special isn't the words that make the lyrics--it's the feeling I'm left with afterwards. And that feeling is joy. This song just makes me happy.
Part of it is the realism. This isn't a happy, punch drunk peppy love song--there's some grit to it, a tiny, tiny undertone of how the world isn't made perfect by love (although it is made better). The ghetto--such an innocuously sung word that is only briefly mentioned--is a part of the song, and a part of the music video.
And while we're on the subject of setting--part of the setting is not two perfect young adults in love--it has fat people, skinny people, ugly and pretty people. And children. And families. And the whole village. Love isn't Bella and Edward (or, for you Twihards, love isn't just Bella and Edward) and this song strives to show that it's love--all forms of love--that make this world a better place.
But that's what good writing is about--*not* the perfect ending, but the way life is made better. A real love story doesn't end with happily ever after, just a kiss and a smile and hope.
In writing, it's not so much the words you write, but the impression you leave with the reader. In this song, through the tone and the setting and yes, the words, I am left with an impression of happiness, and a feeling that even if the world isn't perfect, it's not too bad and we can all be happy, especially with love.
Michael Franti is a genius at this--at creating the impression that sticks with the reader. Consider this song:
Now the impression is reversed. In the first song, the overall impression is joyous--in this one, it's much sadder. Through setting (did you notice the garbage pile he sang in front of?), through subtle messages (like the writing on the children's hands), and through the actual tone of the song, you get the impression of sorrow. That the world is a sorrowful place despite the joy, not a joyous place despite the sorrow.
Two entirely different songs--two entirely different impressions. But the point is, when we write, what we need to do is create that impression with the reader. Make him feel--through setting, tone, words, and messages, stir him to emotion, and you're greatest job as a writer is done.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Great questions, everyone! As you were all posting your quessies for PJ, I found myself time and again wondering what the answers would be.
Well, wait no further! Here you go:
1) I should think a name like that would open doors to ancient research libraries. How far did you go, how deep did you delve to learn about Lemuria and teleporting?
One word. Wikipedia. Sadly, I never figured out how to teleport, so web research was it for this trilogy. I did try telepathy on a number of occasions, and I swear a few times it actually worked. The nice thing about basing the location (Lemuria) off a real mythological place is that there are lots of theories on it out there!
2) What is the most interesting thing you ever dug up? Your choice: library(virtual or otherwise) or ground (like real dirt).
And a question, because I'm always interested in this: Did you get your agent via querying? If so, what was the query process like for you?
Natalie Aguirre asked:
What does P.J. recommend that aspiring authors who don't have a blog do to have a web presence and how can we best use facebook when we're not published?
But first and foremost, write a great book. Once it's accepted, there is lots of time to get the web stuff going.
A question from me (Beth):
And I would like to ask something, too! I noticed on Tabitha's interview, you talked about writing Navel in 2005, and rewriting it as the series developed. Could you discuss a bit more about how it's different to write the second book of a series than, say, the first or third? What different processes do you use?
Did the idea for The Forgotten Worlds trilogy come to you as a series - or did it become a series as you started to write it? In other words did you think I have a great idea for three books. Or did you start to write the story and realize that it could best be told in three books?
From Shannon Messenger:
When you're structuring a series, how do you plant things in the first book that don't fully pay off until later books and yet not make it feel like there's holes in the plot of the first book? (Does that even make sense? It does in my head...but I didn't sleep much last night...)
From Robyn Campbell:
What is the one most important thing you want your reader to come away with from reading, The Navel of the World or The Emerald Tablet?
From Miriam S. Forster:
Can you tell us what's next for you after the Forbidden Worlds series? Are there more amazing worlds in the works? What are you working on now?
From me--again.... ;)
You mentioned in the review that your son is just now reading Navel. I wonder...at what point do you let certain people read your work? Obviously a beta reader is going to read a rough draft, but how rough? Do you keep the first draft personal and send them a second? What about your agent? Your husband? Your children?
For the third book in this series, I'll let my son read it either in ARC form or as the manuscript being sent off for the ARC printing. Not before. Too many things change.
From Heather Zundel:
1) What made you think of Atlantis as your first inspiration?
2) I also am curious about structuring a series. Please elaborate in any
way you see fit. :)
3) What is the most important thing about creating characters?
Also, give your characters a motivation BEFORE the book starts. What does this character want?
And really ask yourself the WHY question. WHY is this character in this story? What makes them be the main character as opposed to somebody else?
4) And - do you outline or write on the fly?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Last year, I did an interview with PJ for her book THE EMERALD TABLET. Her answers were so good that I thought I'd rerun it today--and give you all a chance to think of some more questions to ask PJ in her interview with YOU tomorrow!
Without further ado...
We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
In college I used to tell people my name was Athena. And the best part? They believed me! I even had license plates on my red Jeep Wrangler with “Athena J” on them.
Your plane crashed on a deserted island, and Sawyer wasn't on it. You only have one book to entertain yourself with until the rescue comes—if it ever comes. What book do you wish you had with you on the island?
Hmmm…I’d want to make sure either it was the longest book in the world or one I could read over and over. Of the latter, I’ve already read them over and over, so I’ll go with the former and pick Crime & Punishment because: (1) It’s super long; (2) I’ve heard it’s great; (3) I want to read it; and (4) I haven’t yet made the time.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An engineer! Boring, I know. But I loved all things computers (and yes, they got big when I was in high school). I taught myself to program Basic on an old Commodore 64 between games of Q*bert and Castle Wolfenstein.
In college, I did hit a slump senior year and decided I wanted to be an archaeologist. I stuck around for a fifth undergraduate year and got a history degree, but then decided engineering would pay way better so I went on to graduate school for Electrical Engineering.
How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
Way less then was in the first draft! When I first start writing, I put so much of myself into my book. Luckily, The Emerald Tablet has been through enough revisions that lots of that extra stuff was removed.
Heidi is my favorite character, and I like to think she’s the closest to being modeled after me. She can read minds. Her hair changes color when her emotions flare up. And she ends up having a big crush on…oh, wait, that will come in Book 3.
What was your timeline in The Emerald Tablet? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
First draft – about three months.
Initial revisions – another six months.
At this stage, I thought it was perfect. Yikes! But the good thing is I went ahead and started on Book Two.
About six months later, I met an editor at a conference who offered to read The Emerald Tablet and give me some feedback. Yeah, she was really nice. Her suggestions were eye opening, and I devoured them, jumping back into revisions with a passion.
When I finished, I sent it back, and she read it again and offered more feedback. This went on a few more times, until one day she offered to buy the trilogy!
So to summarize, I started writing The Emerald Tablet in December 2004, signed a contract in February 2007, and hit publication October 2008.
If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from The Emerald Tablet, what would you want that to be?
To know that even if you’ve been given talents in life, that’s not enough. You need to make the effort to go above and beyond those talents and see what you can really accomplish.
To phrase it better—Don’t rest on your laurels.
What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
I’d love to have a new book out each year. I want to always keep writing, continuously strive to improve, continuously feel like I am improving, and meet wonderful people. Oh yeah, and live is a giant mansion. And having a theme park after one of my series wouldn’t be too bad either.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
How much I truly love every aspect of it. I love first drafts. I love revisions. I love designing bookmarks in Photoshop. I love sending emails to potential reviewers. I love happy hours with the writing community.
And the list could only go on.
Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Never give up!
Oh wait, you said beside that.
Do not be afraid to get feedback. Be willing to revise. Take time between revisions. There is no perfect book, and every author can use feedback!
And take yourself seriously.
OK, that was more than one thing! So how about—don’t be afraid to break the rules now and then.
Thanks for the interview, PJ!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
When I first started reading THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, I wasn't sure what to expect. Benjamin's world is so unique--from telegens to nogicals, the magic and mystery here is unlike any other book I've read.
Elsewhere on the web: I'm sure you all know this already, but PJ runs one of the best blogs on the block and has a website as well. There's a Facebook fan page to the Forbidden Worlds series as well [but I can't seem to get the link to load correctly]. PJ did an interview with Tabitha at Writer Musings here as well.
Five Sentence Summary: [As this is a sequel, the summary might be a spoiler for those who haven't read the first book. Highlight to read.] Benjamin and pals are at it again--now that he knows he needs to locate his long lost fellow triplets, he and his friends are working together to 1) track them down and 2) get them together. When they find one of the triplets in an unusual, er, location, extracting him to unite him with Benjamin proves rather difficult...and some of the friends are going to have to pay a high price to continue their journey.
So what can we, as writers, learn from this book?
1. Consequences for Actions: One of my pet peeves in writing is when there are no serious consequences to a character's actions. It is also one of the most common traits of children's literature. In kid lit, it seems acceptable to the point of being expected that, in the end, the kids win and there's nothing bad happening. Which, of course, is completely unrealistic and so sugar-sweet that even kids can't swallow it. No, the mark of good kid lit is there there are consequences--even when you do the right thing. Consider the Harry Potter series. Part of what made that final battle so amazing was knowing the sacrifices--on Harry's part and on his friends'--that made the victory bittersweet.
Which is what I loved about the ending of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. In it, one of the characters must make a serious decision that will have serious consequences. And there's no magic wand to change what happens--it happens, and the characters have to live with how that's changed them, for better or worse. (Highlight for more) Iva must make the decision to give up a year of her life and work with Apollo as a prophet--and Andy makes the decision to stick with Iva. There's no slick way they escape paying their dues--both of them lose that year, and they can't go back and change it. By having these consequences as real repercussions of their decisions, the story is all the more realistic--and that's why I liked it so much.
2. Complex plot twists that are wrapped up logically: In case you haven't heard, there's two very exciting words being bandied about with this book: time travel. TIME TRAVEL! I adore good time travel stories--that's why, after all HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was so brilliant in my book. I love the plot twists time travel allows, and PJ fully uses them here. As soon as the kids start zooming back and forth in time, make sure you pay attention to the details and the cleverly layered clues. Trust me--they're important. The key here is not just that PJ uses time travel in the story, it's that she, the writer, is layering clues in the past and present so that when you add them all up, you get a clear picture of the whole story. Time travel is one of the best ways to write using a "gun on the mantle" literary device--put the clue somewhere in the past and have the hero use it in the future, or give a warning in the past and realize it by the climax--that's the key to writing good time travel.
3. Random Fun: Although my high schoolers are loving--LOVING--PJ's series, the target audience for the book is MG. --segue-- I recently started watching iCarly on Nickelodeon. It is hi-larious. And it includes a lot of random humor--during the kids' webshow, they have Random Dancing, the character Sam randomly eats and/or punches people, coincidences abound. Sometimes it's a bit too much for me. But...kids love it. --segue-- Likewise, in THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD, there's a few bits of randomness--the guy with a crush on Iva, the girl who shows up to help the heroes, the kid who inconveniently provides Benjamin with things he needs, the Nogicals (who are, almost by definition, random...and PS, yes I did say NogicalS--there's two now!)--but that is exactly the sort of random happen-chance that kids love. LOVE.
Quibbles: At times, some of the randomness seemed almost like deus ex machina to me, but, as I said, it will definitely appeal to kids and (highlight) don't forget that this *is* a time travel story, so some of the random convenience of objects or tools was actually manufactured by the time travel and a part of the story, although you might not realize that until the end.
The Bottom Line: This one is better than the first. If you liked THE EMERALD TABLET, you'll love THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD. Also: Apollo.
Don't forget! Comment here for extra entries into the give-away for both of PJ's books...and if you have a question about the books, PJ, or writing in general, go to yesterday's post to ask--and get even more entries!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
This worked so well last time that I thought it would be fun to try it again.
This is YOUR chance to interview MG and YA speculative fiction writer, PJ HOOVER! The author of the Forbidden Worlds series (and, I am sure, a future bibliography any spec fic writer would envy), PJ has graciously agreed to answer YOUR questions.
Want to know how to structure a multi-book series? Curious about marketing? Wonder what's in store for Benjamin and pals in the future? (OK, she might not answer that last one...)
This post will be open until Thursday night--so feel free to ask whatever questions you might have. And, as a refresher, here's the interview PJ did with me last year. But feel free to re-ask some questions, see if they changed!
Monday, October 19, 2009
I gave midterms today.
It was 15 questions long.
The kids had an hour and half to answer those 15 measly questions.
Over half of them didn't finish.
*insert evil maniacal teacher laughing here*
As they were leaving, one kid turns to me, rubbing his tired hands and pocketing the remaining nub of his pencil.
Kid: Mrs. Revis, you hate us, don't you.
Me: I don't hate you, I just want to make sure you're learning.
Other Kid: If she doesn't hate us, she must just love our misery.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
So, how do you win? Easy! Just leave a comment here below telling me which of the novels you'd like to win--the first in the series or the sequel--and we'll draw the winner on Sunday! You've got until 11:59pm Saturday to let me know which of the two books you want.
- Link this contest to anywhere else--Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. for an extra entry each
- Ask a interview question for PJ at Tuesday's "Ask the Author" post for an extra entry
- Comment and/or link to my review of THE NAVEL OF THE WORLD (which will be posted on Wednesday) for an extra entry each
- Post a review of either of PJ's books on your blog or in a public forum for +5 entries
- Write a post about how much you want to read either of PJ's book on your blog or in a public forum for +5 entries (such as the popular book reviewer's meme, "Waiting on...")
- Please leave all links to your entries here in this post so I can gather names and draw a winner a bit more easily.
PS: Don't forget to tell me whether you want the first book or the second!
I selected Query Tracker for a few reasons. First, the entire site (both the blog and QueryTracker.net) got a totally new updated look. The redesign not only looks professional, but enhances the functionality.
Second, as I've recently started querying my latest project, I've turned time and again to both the blog and the site. I've quit keeping track of queries through my own paper methods and have started using the Query Tracker premium membership entirely to log my queries, keep my notes organized, and keep track of who and when I've queried. And I've got to say...it's totally worth the low $25/year rate. Since it's online, I find myself able to keep track of things better (as I can access it at school, work, the library, and the coffee shop).
But the blog is so valuable, too! Run by a group of dedicated, professional women--including Carolyn Kaufman, Suzette Saxton, H.L. Dyer, Mary Lindsey, and Elana Johnson--the Query Tracker blog provides valuable insight into various different aspects of writing and publishing.
Among my favorite features of the blog are the inspiration and motivational posts that let us know that our doubts and fears are not unique, tips on specific types of writing and how to improve, and interviews with published authors and agents.
I have two favorite features, though. The first is Medical Fiction Questions Answered, in which Doctor Dyer answers questions about what could happen to characters when they are sick or injured. Need to know how quickly your plague-infested hero could reasonable recover, or how debilitating a broken ankle could be? Does your character need to be seriously harmed but still able to survive? Need to know which poison your murderer should use? Just ask the doctor!
Another feature that I love is the Publishing Pulse. It's hard to keep track of the changing tastes of agents, but Publishing Pulse does just that. Nearly every week, the Query Tracker girls compile all the news about agents and publishers--who's accepting, who's not, who's changed tastes, who's looking for what in each genre--and posts it here. It's updated in the QueryTracker.net page as well (obviously), but if your currently on the hunt for an agent (like me), it helps to know about the changes as they occur, rather than update every agents on your list one at a time.
But you don't have to take my word for it! When I selected Query Tracker as the October blog of the month, I got in touch with the lovely Elana (of FROM THE QUERY TO THE CALL fame), and asked her what her favorite features of being a writer for the Query Tracker blog were. Here is her interview!
What are the origins of the Query Tracker blog?
Well, Patrick McDonald started the blog to go with the main QueryTracker site, but he didn’t have much time to do anything with it. Once he launched RallyStorm (July 2008), he had even less time. A few of us had formed a critique group and well, one day someone (I think it was Carolyn Kaufman) brought up the fact that there was a QT blog and hey, maybe we should take it over. And since I’m totally addicted to blogging, I jumped at the opportunity to be a co-author for the QT blog. We put together a plan (yes, we’re very organized), and sent it to Pat around Christmas of 2008. We started blogging the last week of December, 2008. And the rest is history.
Five of us co-author the blog:
Well, our slogan is “Helping Writers Become Authors”. That’s the ultimate goal. We try to give writers the tools they need to transform from writers to authors. Things like writing query letters, querying, submitting to agents, finding time to write, perfecting pitches, how to deal with rejection, building platform, as well as the basics like grammar and manuscript formatting. We run the gamut. If you need to know something about writing or publishing, chances are we’re going to address it on the QT blog.
What kinds of features are on the QT blog? What are some of your personal favs?
We have literary agent contests (one coming up in November – very exciting!) and interviews. These are invaluable sources of information for authors looking to query.
H.L. Dyer is a doctor, and she answers medical questions for fiction writers. Carolyn Kaufman has dipped into her field of psychology and answered questions and broken down several stages of publishing for our readers.
We all have our own strengths. We’re all in different stages of our publishing journeys. And that helps us relate to every kind of writer out there, from beginning to advanced, agented to pre-published.
What have been the best advantages of being a writer for the QT blog and/or blogging in general? The biggest downfalls?
Writing for the QueryTracker blog has been awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better group of writers to co-author with. The agents we’ve approached for contests, interviews and judging have been kind and easy to work with. It’s been exciting to see the blog grow so quickly in such a short amount of time.
I think the biggest downfall is keeping things fresh. Not just for the QT blog, but in all blogging. I blog five days a week, and let me tell you, sometimes I’ve got nothing to talk about. On the QT blog, we try to keep our finger on the pulse of the publishing industry and provide posts that will give writers the information they need, when they need it. And that can be a challenge sometimes. But the five of us? We love ourselves a challenge. By the way, we’d love to know what authors out there want to see addressed on the blog!
Oh, sheesh. You’re asking me? I read so many blogs everyday. Seriously, like an exorbitant, embarrassingly huge amount. If I had to pin down a blog or two, I’d go with the Guide to Literary Agents blog. Chuck does a great job there. I like people who blog about things related to writing that make me analyze what I do. (Like, uh, you, Beth!!) [Edited to add Beth slipping Elana a $20 for the compliments. :) ]
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Mary at KidLit.com is sponsoring a query contest on her blog! If you have a completed, ready to submit kid lit book, then check her blog here, submit your query, and enter to win a chance for a 30 page critique! Mary Kole is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, so a crit from her is nothing to sneeze at!
Friday, October 16, 2009
At the end of summer school, Benjamin was given one task—find his missing brothers. Should be easy right? But Benjamin can't locate a trace of them anywhere. Then he finds a mysterious file written in ancient Lemurian with his name on it, which wouldn't be so weird except the file happens to be several thousand years old. Who would have known about Benjamin that long ago? And then Benjamin and his friends begin to wonder, have they been looking not in the wrong place, but in the wrong time?
Sound awesomely amazing. Oh, it is. And the best news? I get to share my excitement over this novel with you, dear readers! Tomorrow, we're going to start gathering questions from YOU to interview PJ with, and next week we'll have the interview, a book review, and... a giveaway for both PJ's first AND second book!!! So stick around--this'll be fun!
When I was brainstorming this week of YA discussion, one of the first people I thought to interview was Erin Anderson over at The Screaming Guppy. After having the priveledge to read some of her recent WIP's chapters, I suggested she consider re-aging the book to YA--which led to a lengthy discussion of just what YA is. Erin graciously agreed to share her side of the story here, and without further ado, here's Erin!
- Main character is a kid, somewhere under the age of 18
- YA stories aren’t dark or violent
- YA writing is simplified, therefore not as interesting to read
Thursday, October 15, 2009
At the end of this week, I'll be officially announcing a new contest, with an author feature, book review, and interview that will be happening next week.
BUT we had so much fun with the Mystery Book last time, that I thought we'd do a mini-version of it this time!
Next week, I'll be giving away the first book in the series, and the author has agreed to give away the new second book (yay! 2-book giveaway!). We'll be doing a drawing. But, if you'd like to be ahead of the game and start off with TEN extra drawing entries, all you have to do is be the first to guess the book!
Since I'm clearly crap at giving clues (I always think they're so hard, but they're really too easy), I asked the author to come up with the clues. Here they are--now let's see who's the first to GUESS THAT BOOK!
This is second in a trilogy.
The title mentions a body part.
There are stairs on the cover.
Two words: Time Travel
The main character is not human.
OK! Leave your guesses below...the first to guess the book in a comment in this post will get ten extra entries to win a copy in the contest next week.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
There's already a lot out there about the difference between MG and YA literature--and I'll be tackling that from a different angle later this week.
So what the difference between YA and adult literature?
Well, for starters, YA literature tends to be grouped together on one shelf, while adult literature is "specialized" into genres. Even though a Kristin Cashore novel is vastly different from a Sarah Dessen title, the two will still be shelved side-by-side in a YA section of the bookstore. You would not, for example, see Amanda Quick beside Connie Willis in the adult section.
Why? Well, for starters, I think it's partly because YA is still a growing branch of literature. It wasn't that long ago that all "kids" literature was grouped together. Even my local WaldenBooks had one shelf for picture books, beside the shelf for MG (depsite the obvious differences between the two) and has only moved the teen section to an entirely different part of the store a few year ago...and it still cross-shelves or mis-shelves those titles frequently.
But beyond that, there's also a similarity in YA books that extend beyond the target age range. The pace, characterization, etc., ties the books together. If you (like me) don't care whether there's romance or fantasy or mystery or sci fi, as long as it's a good story, then grouping the sub-genres of YA makes sense. It is actually, in my opinion, typically beneficial. It enables the teens who go to the YA genre to be exposed to--and tempted--by other genres. Many girls start with romance, but come back with fantasy or historical novels because those were grouped together on the shelf. In all fairness, most teens who read for fun read a wider variety of books than adults--just take, for consideration, my mother who goes straight to the romance aisle of the bookstore, versus the average teen who sees all the genres lined up on the same shelf.
On the other hand, beyond the similarities across the board in YA literature, there are some more differences between YA and adult. Let's analyze the sub-genres:
- Romance (light romance, no sex)
- YA: these stories tend to be sweeter, more about first loves or discovering love
- Adult: ditto, although the sense of adventure in finding love is gone, and typically this deals with women who have love fall in their laps after swearing it off
- Romance (sexy)
- YA: usually first time romances, again with a bittersweet element of discovering love. Can sometimes be about a bad relationship being "fixed" by a better one. And don't think there's no sex in teen lit. It's there--sometimes described, sometimes not.
- There are exceptions--I'm thinking Kristin Cashore in particular here--were the relationship is not focused on first time sex (even if it is) but is a much more mature decision. In these cases, I still maintain that typically, in teen lit, a sexual relationship is rarely entered into lightly, and most teen protagonists either think about whether or not to consummate a relationship before or after (or both), whereas there is very little internal "decision making" going on in adult lit.
- Adult: Usually a bit more promiscuous than teen lit, to be honest. In teen lit, the teen usually knows and has known the romantic interest for some time. It took Bella four books and a wedding ring to consummate her love with Edward. On the other hand, a lot of adult romances show sexual relationships within the first week or so of the protagonists meeting. This is more about the thrill and danger of the stranger, not about believing you've found true love.
- Cozy Mysteries
- YA: The teen has to play an integral part in solving the mystery--which means the mystery has to have circumstances where a teen can solve it.
- Adult: No different from teen mysteries, except that here the elderly woman/spinster/intrepid young librarian/whatever has to have circumstances to solve the crime.
- YA: Actually, I've seen very little in this genre for teens, and what I have seen also tends to include a bit of fantasy/sci fi in it.
- Adult: Usually adults, usually professionals (in some capacity) solving the crime. Tends to be darker than other lit.
- High/Epic Fantasy
- YA: More focus on characters, less on worldbuilding. The plot centralizes (typically) around a character, not an event or a location.
- Adult: The opposite--plot centralizes on event/location, not character.
- Quest Sub-Genre:
- YA: Again, stronger focus on characters. In the quest, the internal struggle of the main character has more importance than the external, although the external struggle is usually quick in pace/high action.
- Adult: Less focus on internal struggle, more focus on external struggles. External struggles tend to be more complicated--a slower burn, so to speak.
- Contemporary Fantasy
- YA: Often has elements of romance, often deals with discovery. Typically, contemporary fantasy in YA is about how magic compliments or mirror's a character's problems, and magical development accompanies character development.
- Adult: I'm limited here...I don't know much adult contemporary fantasy. Taking a stab in the dark, I'd guess it's either more romance (i.e. Sherrilyn Kenyon) or magic-realism (i.e. Audrey Whatever-Her-Last-Name-Is-Who-Wrote-TIME-TRAVELER'S-WIFE)
- Science Fiction
- YA: Typically dystopic future, with an emphasis on an individual character's place in the world.
- Adult: Typically space-based, with an emphasis on political background and world-building.
- YA: Sometimes romance-oriented, but with a wider variety of time periods and locations explored (think Cindy Pon, Jane Yolen, A.S. King)
- Adult: More often romance-oriented, with a focus on the "romantic" time periods: regency England, Napoleonic times, etc.
The Biggest Difference
The bottom line is simple: in the end, the biggest difference between YA and adult literature is simply that YA literature is more willing to take a risk than adult.
Adult literature--perhaps because the genres are so clearly developed and readers expect the same thing from the genres--is limited. If you pick up a Regency historical romance, you know what you're going to get even if the author/cover/publisher is different. But if you find that same topic in the YA section, you might get PRADA AND PREJUDICE, or you might get THE SEASON.
And don't get me started on fantasy and science fiction. I gave up on adult sff a long time ago, somewhere around the eight hundredth orc battle. No, YA sff is cranking out zombies (Carrie Ryan), dystopic futures with children-death-battles (Suzanne Collins), mixing fantasy and mystery (Megan Whalen Turner) and innovative magic systems that don't owe anything to Tolkien (Kristin Cashore). And, to top it all off, there's the rising genre of Steampunk--with all it's roots on the teen shelf.
So, in my humble opinion, despite all the lists of differences between YA and adult lit, the best, most important one is simply this:
In YA lit, anything's possible.
...So, in your opinion, what's the biggest difference between YA and adult lit? Can you break down the genres more?
Sunday, October 11, 2009
This is a topic that's been spinning in my head for awhile now: What is YA?
There's the obvious answer. YA is young adult literature, books intended for teens typically between the ages of 13-17 (give or take a few years). And there's the assumption that this includes the typical topics: teen love, "growing pains," and angst.
And that's as far as most people go when considering YA.
The problem? YA is a misnomer. YA literature is not books for young adults. It's not. YA books aren't book intended for a certain age (just look at the varying degrees of censorship applied to many YA books to know that).
No, YA is a genre, not an age range. And to have good YA does not mean that you have to follow a set of guidelines and write down to teens. Instead, it's about fitting the tropes of the genre, and those tropes have nothing to do with age.
Character-based Story: YA books focus on characters more than setting. This is especially true of fantasy and sf. Adult sff is much more concerned about world building--one reason for the door-stop sized thickness of the book. YA sff isn't worried about the legends behind the magic, the origins of magic, or the development of the world--unless it directly relates to the characters. YA sff is much much much more concerned with the inner workings of the character's minds, not the inner workings of the world s/he inhabits.
Fast Plot: I'm not saying adult books don't have fast plot. But--like adult thrillers, suspense, and some romance sub-genres--YA is more focused on a page-turning plot than a literary level of contemplative wording. A YA is--like those other adult genres I mentioned--likely to end a chapter with an explosion or cliffhanger much more than a subtle allusion or rhetorical philosophical question.
Relationships: This is, I suspect, where the stereotype of YA having to have a boy-girl love factor in it. That's not true. But YA does tend to focus on some type of relationship: either a love one, or a relationship between friends, or even (such as in Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK) a relationship with one's own self. YA lit is character based, and nearly always, that character based format is developed through some form of relationship. (Compare this, for example, to Tolkein's LORD OF THE RINGS--although often lauded by teens, this series is not YA in part because the relationships between the characters, despite the foundation of the story being in the Fellowship, is minimized in comparison to an almost exclusive focus on Frodo's internal struggle.)
Size (maybe) Matters: YA does tend to be shorter than some adult literature. But not always (see: TWILIGHT, HARRY POTTER). The point is not that the stories need to be shorter, it's that in YA, every word counts. If you have 500 pages of words that count (which TWILIGHT and HARRY POTTER certainly do), then include it. If you've only got 150 pages of words that count, then do that. You will not see fluff in much YA, because the bottom line isn't the size of the text, but the impact of the story.
Any Topic or Genre Will Do: YA isn't about fitting one role, story-wise. You can have YA romance (Sarah Dessen), historical (Markus Zusak, MT Anderson), fantasy (Kristin Cashore), science fiction (Scott Westerfield), futuristic dystopian with a mix of romance and thriller (Suzanne Collins). The point is: in YA, it doesn't matter what your subject is, as long as you've got the characters, plot, and relationship to tell a good story. And don't think you've got to limit your story to a certain "age-appropriate" plot. YA runs the gamut of "acceptable": suicide (13 REASONS WHY), rape (SPEAK), eating disorders (WINTERGIRLS), homosexuality (THE BERMUDEZ TRIANGLE), incest (V.C. Andrews), and children thrown into an arena to kill each other in a bloodbath (HUNGER GAMES).
As I hope you can see, YA is not about a certain age range. Instead, YA is more of a genre in and of itself. Like romance, historicals, and suspense, YA has certain tropes--which are not restricted by age. Unlike childrens and MG books, YA is not limited to certain topics, and (despite the crazy censors) there is no real measuring stick for what's appropriate and what's not. Instead, YA literature is much more about character-based fast plots with a focus on relationships and making every word in the story contribute to the overall story. It has nothing to do with the age of the reader, despite where it's shelved in the bookstore.
WHEW! What a week! Not only did I host way too many contests, but I got slammed at work (*grumble*essays*grumble*) and received a few *awesome* books for my birthday which has led to me being, well, rather irresponsible and unproductive, to be honest.
On to winners!
First and foremost, October slid in all sneaky-like, and it's time for me to have a new writing blog of the month! When I was thinking of which of the many wonderful blogs to select, I turned once again to my own experience--which blogs have helped me most? Since I've begun querying, the two blogs that did benefit me most was Casey McCormick's Literary Rambles and...the blog at Query Tracker. I'm going to get in touch with some of the girls at the QT blog soon, but we'll just go ahead and announce it all official now:
Oh, wait, you wanna know who won the other goodies? :) Let's start from big to small.
The winner of the Diana Peterfreund bookmark and tattoo is....
The winner of the copy of Markus Zusak's THE BOOK THIEF is...
And, the winner of the next Critter visit is...
(I just couldn't resist sending Critter international...but he better not expect a first class ticket!)
OK all you wonderful winners! Please send me your mailing addresses to bethrevis (at) gmail.com, and I will send out your prizes!!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
- Announce blog winners
- Prepare some mail that needs to go out soon
- Clean the house
- Write the first chapters of a new book that I've been thinking about all week when I should have been focused on grading student essays...
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
I actually *do* have a series of things to post, but I think I let things get a bit swamped in the contest department, didn't I? I originally had everything spaced out so that the Critter contest didn't collide with the Mystery Book Contest, but then I got sick and got behind, and argh.
The Mystery BEST Book in the Past 5 Years has been revealed: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak! The title has (obviously) already been guessed correctly, so you can't get the extra entries that way, but you still have a chance to win by clicking and commenting here.
Would you like the lovable monster Critter to come to your home town and visit you and your blog? Then click here and leave a comment telling me where you'd take him. Best new location wins! (PS: Sorry about the crazy huge pictures. I have no idea why the pictures are doing that. I've resized in Blogger but that seems to do nothing at all.)
Also: I reviewed Diana Peterfreund's newest book, RAMPANT, here...leave a comment for a chance to win a bookmark/temporary tattoo courtesy of the author! (I was going to close this one Sunday, but I've only had a handful of entries...anyone who entered before Sunday gets double entries, and I'll leave it open for everyone else through the end of the week.)
WHEW! OK, after this crazy week, I'm taking a break from contests!
...oh, wait...I'm not! I've got a new one coming up, for a super-amazing-cool author...and it's coming up very very VERY soon--along with an interview, a review, and a chance for YOU to interview the author!!!
Monday, October 5, 2009
Paradox Revealed and Sashi K. were the first to correctly guess the mystery book: THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak.
As such, they get extra entries into the drawing for the book. If you'd like to throw your name in the pot for a chance to win a new copy of THE BOOK THIEF, feel free to enter HERE.
This was apparently really easy for you all! Would you mind letting me know in the comments if you had fun doing this (as opposed to just a straight-up drawing for a book)?
And for those of you who (I hope) didn't think this was *too* obvious, here's what the clues mean:
- Feather: One of the characters is described as having hair like feathers. That was the most lasting image of the book for me.
- Z: The first initial of the author's last name.
- Personal library: The main character becomes a bit obsessed with books, and visits a neighbor's library several times.
- Comic books: In the middle of the book, there's a comic-book like text made by one of the characters.
- Train: The opening scenes are on a train.
- The Olympics: One of the characters wants to be like Jesse Owens, from his Olympic race win.
- Red: Some of the characters are Communists.
- Basement: This location has a very significant role in the story of the main character and someone she meets.
- Paint: The main characters adoptive father is a painter by trade.
- Handbook: The first book the main character steals in the Handbook for Gravediggers.
- A kiss: Ah! The most touching scene in the whole book--and the point where I broke down and cried.
- Death: Death is the narrator of the book.
- Books: Books play a key role in the story (obviously, considering the title).
- Accordion: The main character's adoptive father plays the accordion (another touching scene).
- Dominoes: This is a reference to the American edition of the book cover.
And don't forget: if you haven't entered, do so HERE.
That's it, folks! The final clue for the BEST Book Giveaway! In case you haven't figured it out yet, here are all the clues, in order:
- Personal library
- Comic books
- Jesse Owens
- A kiss
Know what book it is? Be the first to guess the title in the comments below, and you will get 25 additional entries into the drawing! Anyone who correctly guesses after the first guess will get 10 extra entries into the drawing.
Comment below with your guess on what book I think is the BEST book published in the last five years!
[This is a clue for the BEST Book Giveaway! Remember, don't post what you think the book is until October 5, or someone might steal your idea!]
(side note: I switched to the updated editor in Blogger, but for some reason can't get pics to post correctly. Sorry that some are centered, some aren't.)
Well, as you all know, I was graced with a visit from Critter recently, via PJ Hoover, via Christy Evers (whose great idea this project was). There's not much to do around here in rural Appalachain country, but one thing my area does have to offer is, you know...
Critter was thrilled! The Biltmore House is *huge* and there are lots of other critters for him to meet and become friends with.
Fine, let's NOT make friends here. Between the nekkid women, horny boys, and Critter-eating fish, I think we'd be better off looking elsewhere.
How about a nice garden?
Oh, that IS nice. Let's take a moment to...
The outdoor gardens didn't have much, actually--it IS nearly fall, after all. So we went to the greenhouses next.
While there, we saw these exotic flowers.
There was a little old lady walking around while we were. She saw me looking at these big flowers and started chuckling. When I looked up, this kind, sweet grandma looked me square in the eyes and said, "We always used to call those little boy flowers."
So, of course, as soon as she said that and I knew what she meant, Corwin *had* to take this picture:
- I will select a winner from the comments below. This isn't a drawing. I'm going to pick the person who I, personally, think has the best place to show Critter. It's totally up to me :P
- The winner MUST have a blog, and MUST show pictures of Critter doing things on your blog.
- The winner gets to sign his/her name on Critter, as well as add a link to his/her blog.
- The winner will then host a contest on his/her blog, select a new winner, and mail Critter off to the new Critter host. The winner needs to pick someone reliable who will keep the Critter-chain going--it would suck royally if Critter doesn't make it back to his original home.
- For more information on the rules of Critter, go to ChristysCreativeSpace.blogspot.com