Tag Archives: Young Adult Literature

Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged! Writers across the blogosphere have been tossing a particular Q&A around the writing community. It’s the Writing Process Blog Tour. Lila Quintero Weaver published her responses last week and tossed it over to me. First, here’s some info on my tagger.

DarkroomI haven’t met Lila in person yet, but I consider her una amiga nonetheless. We have been collaborating on the Latin@s in Kid Lit site since July 2013. Lila has been an enthusiastic blogger for the site, posting great book talks, Q&As, and personal stories. An author and illustrator, her debut novel was Darkroom: Memoirs in Black and White. She is currently working on a middle grade novel.

 

 

Here are the questions and my responses:

What am I working on?

aesop

An image of Aesop

I am revising Aesop’s Curse, my second young adult novel. During the school year, I teach middle school reading full time and college composition part time, so my goal is to finish revising Aesop’s Curse this summer so that my agent can review it and submit it to editors. The story is about a high school freshman named Alexandre Hart who learns he is the reincarnation of Aesop, the fable writer. Aesop cursed a village before he was executed, and now Alex has to somehow fix this or things will get ugly. (I don’t want to give too much away). I am also steadily working on plans to promote my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books on February 10, 2015.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Both of my novels have a literary element. Aesop’s Curse includes information about the author and some of his most famous fables. When Reason Breaks includes Emily Dickinson’s poetry, and the characters represent the poet and other people who existed in her life. For example, the two main characters, Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis, represent Dickinson, and the character Tommy Bowles represents two important men in Dickinson’s life: Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles. While there are lots of YA books linked to famous authors and/or literary works, there are fewer about Dickinson and Aesop.

Each of my novels also has a diverse cast of characters, which is important to me personally as a Latina, mom, and teacher. I think it’s important to represent our diverse reality in children’s books, and to not consider these “minority” books, but rather books with minorities in them.

Why do I write what I do?

I write what interests me. I fell in love with Dickinson’s work during graduate school, I have first-hand experience with depression, and I have been a teacher for 13 years, which means I have known and learned from lots of interesting, complex, remarkable teens. When Reason Breaks combines these elements. When planning Aesop’s Curse, I again pulled from topics of interest. I found the story of Aesop’s execution fascinating, I have read a lot about the metaphysical and reincarnation, and I have known plenty of young men like Alex who fly under the radar and dread taking risks for fear of failure.

How does my writing process work?

My process is not methodical. I don’t use charts and graphs or color-coded note cards, and I don’t write every day, which is the #1 piece of advice given to writers. I scribble in notebooks and on post-it notes, and I think about my work in progress constantly, plotting scenes in my head. This way, when I have time to sit and write, I’m ready. I do most of my writing during child-free weekends (when my parents babysit), snow days, sick days, school vacations, and when my daughter is doing an extra curricular activity. Marathon writing sessions with days of no writing in between doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

SusanAdrianMay2013_200pxI will now toss these questions to Susan Adrian, the leader of the Fearless Fifteeners, a group of middle grade and young adult authors debuting in 2015. Susan’s debut YA novel is titled Tunnel Vision and will be published by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Here’s a brief description: A teenage boy who has a power he calls tunneling—he can decipher where anyone in the world is (and what they’re doing) by holding something they own—is brought to the attention of the U.S. government. Sounds cool, right? Susan will tell us all about her writing process next week.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Jenny Torres Sanchez

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book ClubVamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Jenny Torres Sanchez. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes directly from the author’s website and her author page on Amazon.com.)

Before writing her debut novel, THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she’s ever met. She’s grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories–many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children.

In addition to writing, she likes to paint, take pictures, and listen to music. Her taste ranges from The Smiths to Violent Femmes, to the Beastie Boys, to Lila Downs, to a band called Los Tigres del Norte.

YA NOVEL: THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Charlie is handed a crappy senior year. Despite losing thirty pounds over the summer, he still gets called “Chunks” Grisner. What’s worse, he has to share a locker with the biggest Lord of the Rings freak his school has ever seen. He also can’t figure out whether Charlotte VanderKleaton, the beautiful strawberry lip-glossed new girl, likes him the way he likes her. Oh, and then there’s his mom. She’s disappeared–again–and his dad won’t talk about it.

Somewhere between the madness, Charlie can at least find comfort in his one and only talent that just might get him out of this life-sucking place. But will he be able to  hold his head above water in the meantime?

MY TWO CENTS: Charlie is a high school senior who is returning to school after having shed thirty pounds but few of his social insecurities. He has a hip best friend, a crush on the hot new girl (who is not good enough for him, in my opinion), a mom who is mentally unstable,  a distant dad who is having an affair, and a caring photography teacher who helps Charlie develop his talent and find something good about himself. He also has an eating disorder. He binges and purges in an effort to feel better during highly emotional moments. There’s a lot going on in the novel, but Sanchez does a good job of blending the issues and capturing a struggling male teen’s voice. If anything, I wanted more of the bulimia issue. It’s rare to see a male MC in a YA novel with an eating disorder; it’s worth exploring even more.

TEACHING TIPS: English teachers could obviously pursue themes, characterization, and external and internal conflicts, but this novel also has great cross-curricular potential. An art teacher wouldn’t have to read the entire novel with a class, but could pull out and explore the chapters that deal with Charlie’s photography and how it helps him to address what’s going on in his life. Students could create a similar photography project. Also, health teachers could use parts of the novel to address eating disorders, bulimia in this case. Mixing non-fiction with fiction is a good way to engage students in such topics and fits right into the Common Core State Standards.

LEXILE: N/A

LINKS for more information: Find THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING CHARLIE on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Jenny Torres Sanchez also has a new novel being released soon, on May 28, 2013, called DEATH, DICKINSON, AND THE DEMENTED LIFE OF FRENCHIE GARCIA. I’ll be sure to check this one out!

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

BOOK DEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On Monday night, I got the okay from my agent to announce that my first novel, RESURRECTING EMILY, has been acquired by Mary Kate Castellani at Walker Books for Young Readers, a division of Bloomsbury Publishing!

I was all…

Jennifer Lawrence

And then I was all…

happy dancing

I want to say THANK YOU! a thousand times to my agent, Laura Langlie, for being so persistent and supportive. And of course a GIANT SIZED THANK YOU! to Mary Kate for saying yes and making a dream of mine come true!

I’ll post more details as I get them, but for now I’ll be busy doing my happy dance!

SCBWI New York 2013

I would have posted this sooner, but I returned from New York to a sick child and then got a head cold. Ugh. Still, I wanted to share some of the highlights of the 14th annual Society for Children Book Writers and Illustrators Winter Conference in New York City.

First, if you write or illustrate, you should be a part of this group. Go ahead, join it now. The group offers local critique groups, and regional and national conferences. This was my second national conference, and I can definitely say the people are the coolest. Really. I attended an educational conference not long ago and one of the big-name speakers was whisked away at the end of her talk, leaving me sputtering a question at her back. Nice, huh? But at the SCBWI conference, I was walking around the evening social, and who was at my regional table? Jane Yolen. And then a woman I met asked, “Would you take a picture of me and Meg Rosoff? She’s right over there.” How cool is that?

The speakers were funny and inspiring. A booksellers panel discussed what’s hot in the market. Meg Rosoff was perfectly snarky when talking about the misconception that writing for children is easy and that “real” authors write for adults. Shaun Tan’s work proved how powerful an image can be and how a story can be told without words, Margaret Peterson Haddix said she’s thrilled that her books appeal to reluctant readers since they are the hardest to reach, Mo Willems encouraged us to dream big. Instead of saying your goal is to publish a book, why not say you want to change the world? And Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton were what you’d expect of Mary Poppins and her child: so sweet and engaging.

The breakout sessions had a common theme this year, with agents and editors answering the question, “What hooks me?” Molly O’Neil, an editor at Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins said she has to fall in love with a project since, if acquired, she’d spend more than a year–at least– on it, reading it multiple times and considering everything from cover art to the marketing campaign. She works on all types of children’s books, from picture books, to middle grade stand-alones, to YA series. Jennifer Besser, publisher at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group, talked about writing that pops off the page. She read from Rick Riordan’s THE LIGHTNING THIEF, which was her first acquisition as an editor.

In the end, the answer to “What hooks me?” was the same: good writing. Each editor had criteria for this, but in general, they know it when they see it. Timing is a major component, too. Vampire books may not get as much attention now post-Twilight, but they’d never say never.

The best part of the conference was talking to other writers who are at different stages of the writing-publishing process. Some work full-time and write when they can. Others write full-time. Some have an agent and are on submission, while others are drafting their first novel. What we all have in common is a desire to create stories. Everyone I met was friendly and supportive, regardless of whether they were a beginner or a published author. Again, I say, how cool is that?

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“Books are not better just because they are written for adults.” -Meg Rosoff

“You don’t get to be an author without a certain amount of persistence.” -Margaret Peterson Haddix

“Fail big if you have to, but go down trying.” -Margaret Peterson Haddix

“Aren’t we lucky?” -Julie Andrews

And finally some photos and a suggestion: if you haven’t attended a writer’s conference, you really should. You leave all warm and fuzzy inside, wanting to throw your hands in the air and shout, “I’m a writer!” Of course, you don’t do this, but you want to. They are that inspiring.

photo

Me chatting with Meg Rosoff, author of HOW I LIVE NOW

photo (1)

Me and Meg Rosoff

photo (2)

Me and Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of AMONG THE HIDDEN and many other novels.

2013 Youth Media Awards

Earlier today, the American Library Association announced the winners of the 2013 Youth Media Awards, which is–as one person on Twitter put it–the Oscars for book nerds. Book lovers live-Tweeted the results, thank goodness, because some of us could not get the ALA web site to load or the live streaming to work. Ugh!

As the winners were announced an enthusiastic round of applause was deserved by “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz for winning two awards and being named an honor book in a third category.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Sáenz, who has written picture books, YA novels, adult novels, and poetry, is the author of “Last Night I Sang to the Monster,” and “Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood.” On Monday, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” was an Honor Book for the Michael L. Printz Award and won both the Pura Belpré and Stonewall Book Awards.

 

Congratulations to all of the winners! Many of these titles will definitely be added to my “to be read” pile. Below are some of the award winners. For the complete list, click here.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate. Honor Books were: “Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz; “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin; and “Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children“This Is Not My Hat,” illustrated and written by Jon Klassen. Honor Books were: “Creepy Carrots!” illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds; “Extra Yarn,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett; “Green,” illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger; “One Cool Friend,” illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo; “Sleep Like a Tiger,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults“Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America” by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. Honor Books were: “Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis; “No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award: “I, Too, Am America,” illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes. Honor Books were: “H. O. R. S. E.,” illustrated and written by Christopher Myers; “Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons; and “I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults“In Darkness” by Nick Lake. Honor Books were: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz; “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth Wein; “Dodger” by Terry Pratchett; “The White Bicycle” by Beverley Brenna.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience“Back to Front and Upside Down!” written and illustrated by Claire Alexander (younger children). “A Dog Called Homeless” by Sarah Lean (middle school). “Somebody, Please Tell Me Who I Am,” by Harry Mazer and Peter Lerangis (teen).

Odyssey Award for best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States“The Fault in Our Stars,” written by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd. Honor Audiobooks were: “Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian,” written by Eoin Colfer, narrated by Nathaniel Parker; “Ghost Knight,” written by Cornelia Funke, narrated by Elliot Hill; and “Monstrous Beauty,” written by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren.

Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience“Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt.

Pura Belpré (Author) Award“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Book: “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” by Sonia Manzano.

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children“Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin. Honor Books were: “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin,” written and illustrated by Robert Byrd; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip M. Hoose; and “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson.

Stonewall Book Award – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience: “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Honor Books were: “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Hannah Moskowitz; “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Lesléa Newman; and “Sparks: The Epic, Completely True Blue, (Almost) Holy Quest of Debbie” by S. J. Adams.

William C. Morris Award for a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens: “Seraphina” by Rachel Hartman. Finalists: “Wonder Show” by Hannah Barnaby; “Love and Other Perishable Items” by Laura Buzo; “After the Snow” by S. D. Crockett; and “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by emily m. danforth.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults: “Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon”  by Steve Sheinkin Finalists: “Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different” by Karen Blumenthal; “Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95” by Phillip Hoose; “Titanic: Voices from the Disaster” by Deborah Hopkinson; and “We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March” by Cynthia Levinson.

HAPPY READING!!

My Second Blogversary

Two years ago, I started this blog with a draft of my first novel underway and a hope that it will someday be published. I wanted to get my name “out there” and wasn’t quite sure who would read this, but I started anyway.

Two years later, this space is still a work in progress, but I have figured out the types of posts I like to do and will continue to do those. For example, I made a commitment to read more novels by and about Latinos and spotlight those titles. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., and I think it’s important to highlight work by Hispanics for readers of all backgrounds. I have also written about my students, who are reluctant readers, and the books they love. Everyone hears about award-winners, but I’ve discovered lots of other great books because my students said, “This was good.” And trust me, when a teen who never reads says that, I pay attention. I’m happy to highlight those books.

I write about what I do daily: read, write, and teach. Because teaching is my full-time paying gig, I haven’t kept a strict schedule with the blog. Some people religiously post on certain days. I admire that, but I’m not there yet. I want to be more consistent, but probably once a week is the best I can do given my schedule.

Other things that have happened since I started this blog:

I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and a local critique group.

I attended the New York SCBWI conference and met lots of great people.

I revised my first novel and wrote a second one.

I wrote a guest post for Latina Book Club.

I was part of a blog tour for A THUNDEROUS WHISPER by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

People in 40 countries have checked me out. A big wave to that person in Kenya, the reader in the Philippines, and those seven people in Armenia. How cool is that?

Two years later, my third novel is in the planning stage. I still have the hope that my first novel will be published, but I feel like I’m closer to that becoming a reality. I’ll be attending the New York SCBWI conference again, and this time, I will actually know people! I look forward to this year and will continue to do the things I love–read, write, and teach–and blog about them.

NaNoWriMo = Not For Me

Writers participating in National Novel Writing Month are at the half-way point. If a writer is on track, then he or she is 25,000 words into the 50,000 word manuscript that will be complete by the end of the month.

Whew!

I thought for a second about joining NaNoWriMo, but then the moment passed. The process would likely send me over the edge. I applaud anyone who can do it, and maybe someday I’ll be able to, but not now.

In fact, during the last month, I went the other way. Instead of belting out as many words as possible in a short amount of time, I took a break. I haven’t written a blog post or a single sentence for a work in progress. In fact, I don’t have a work in progress. The “write everyday or die trying” writing gurus are probably tsk-tsk-ing at me, but I’m okay with that. I needed a break.

The truth is, writing daily doesn’t work for me. Here’s why: I am a single mom of an active 5-year-old girl and a not-so-active but needy 14-year-old dog. Here’s a picture of Rusty putting up with my daughter. Isn’t he a good sport?

I start teaching at 7:30 a.m. and often have after-school commitments that are followed by getting the humans and canine fed and ready for the next day.  If I have a snow day, if my daughter and dog go to bed early, or if my parents invite my daughter for a sleepover, I write. And I mean, I go for it. When I have a block of writing time, I often don’t leave the computer unless it’s for food or a bathroom break. I work every minute of the time I get to write, but these moments don’t happen every day.

I write when I have time, but I don’t have the time or mental energy to write every day. This is why I would be a NaNoWriMo casualty. I can’t commit to a certain word count each day with the goal being a completed novel by the end of the month. Just the thought of it makes me shiver. Maybe one day, but for now, my “write when I can” method works. I’ve written two pre-published young adult novels. Soon after completing the second one, I tackled a major revision of the first one.

After that, I needed a break. I’m glad I did it, too, because I want to love what I’m writing. I want the characters to dance in my head while I’m in the shower or driving to work, acting out the scenes that will become chapters when I have the time. If I had thrown myself into NaNoWriMo with a half-baked idea, I would have cried, “Mercy” by now.

Stepping away from the keyboard has been good for me. I’m ready to start developing a new idea. I’m excited about that. It won’t get done in a month, but that’s fine by me.

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