Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Those that can...teach

Maybe I should have been a teacher the way my high school instructors claimed. I enjoyed teaching my on-line Man Talk class with the Low Country RWA chapter. And last week I loved being part of the guest faculty at the DePaul University Summer Writing Workshop. (As the new kid on the block I got the Sunday slot for the weekend workshop, but even though that meant driving into downtown Chicago at an ungodly hour, I still loved every minute)  All you introverts out there, there is hope, I am a bona-fide member of the top three percent in introversion, and yet I've learned to do, and love, the public speaking thing.

I was part of the YA writing tract, along with fellow authors Jim Klise (I own a signed copy of his book Love Drugged a story about a gay teen struggling to go “straight,” and Trina Sotira. I enjoyed their lectures. Jim discussed Nuts and Bolts for Revising a First Novel for Teens and Tina lectured on Make Your Fictional Characters as Complex as Their Readers.

My topic was Writing for Young Adults and New Adults and I'm happy to say some people dropped in because they wanted to hear about the New Adult market. My students even gave me new ideas, including working with an improve group to help grow new characters.

It’s true, the best way to really learn something is to teach it…and to listen to your students.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

DePaul University Summer Writing Workshop - Day 1

Friday was day 1, and my first time there as an instructor. The opening speaker was electric. Alex is the author of "There Are No Children Here" and other non-fiction works where he gives people's life stories. SOme of his excerpts had people crying in the seats.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Review - Viscious Little Darlings

Vicious Little DarlingsVicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sarah and her three friends adopt a fawn, name it Hope and hid it in their college dorm room - sounds like a comedy, right? But all three girls have secrets - and for one of them, the secret means life and death.

Sarah wants to feel like she belongs to someone, maybe anyone will do after a mistake with Brad--who totally wasn't worth it--makes her angry grandmother send her to a far away all-girls boarding school. There she meets Agnes and Maddy who let her and the fawn into their group as they move off-campus into a house paid for by the very righ Agnes. They give Sarah everything she wants, including the feeling she belongs. But the fawn's death is a herald of bad things to come as Sarah notices a cold undercurrent. Everything comes with a price, because someone is going to die, and that someone is willing to make a sacrifice to avoid her own death.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Romancing The Genre's

Did you ever want to just be in charge - be the god or goddess of your own world?

I decided to be a goddess and in the process learned that those who say absolute power corrupts absolutely must know a writer or two, because  more...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lazy weekend

I'm attending a writer's workshop hosted by Illinois SCBWI at Villa Maria in Lake Springfield. I'mmeeting  a great group of people, and had an exciting critique session with a group of other YA and MG author. The food is good, the people better, and I'm getting some work done.  I'm hoping to finish Being God (formerly BAMF) at long last.

Off now to relax in the sun and get a little more sleep. Maybe Malik will have his final crisis while I do, and then we're finally complete.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

PULL Wins the National Reader's Choice Award - part 2

PULL's 2010 Reader's Choice award for it's first place in Young Adult books arrived in the mail today. I understand why it is affectionately known as a tombstone.  Since I could not be in both New York for the RWA conference where the award was given, and in beautiful, if muggy, New Orleans for ALA and a booksigning, my Chicago North RWA chaptermate Jennie Carney stepped in to pick up the prize and attend the Champagne breakfast I missed. 

Jennie mailed the tombstone to me and the package arrived today. My fumbling hands undid the tape so I could find my prize.

Here I am, tombstone in hand
Now my friends here at the library where I volunteer are oohing and aahing and doing the happy dance with me

Just holding the thing is inspiring me to finally finish the darned sequel, which has gone through so many metamorphoses I don't know how to handle it. (The title along has changed from B.A.M.F. - if you're a teen you know what those initial stand for - to Being God. Go figure)

Tomorrow I head off to a weekend writing retreat hosted by the Illinois SCBWI in a resort by Lake Springfield.  Here's hoping the atmosphere will bring that story to a close.

P. S.  I missed the RWA champagne, but not the beer and fun at ALA. Here are some of the pictures from the YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) get-together and bourbon street.

The fountain caught fire during the YALSA reception

Bourbon street - no, it's not Mardi Gras time so I could actually move

And of course, I have pictures of my friends and fans.

A fan

More fans

And friends

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

YA books and censorship

Early in June I went to Chicago's Printer's Row book festival, an annual weekend celebration of the printed word. I shared a booth with Barbara's Bookstore - totally coincidental - and the Chicago Writer's Association. I spoke to a family about PULL, and as I talked to the parents their son picked up a copy and started reading. My opening hook did it's job and he quickly interrupted us to tell his parents, "I want this book."

When they turned to me to purchase it a small feeling of responsibility jumped in, he looked very young. I asked, then told me their son was eleven. I mentioned that PULL was intended for 8th grade and up, and that there was language and sexual innuendo. They smiled. Their son reads voraciously, if he wanted it, that was enough for them.  They intended to read the book as well--after he finished with it.

No censorship in their house.

I contrast that with a recent experience I had in a library. I was in the paperback section, where multiple genre's are jumbled together. A girl was with her father, looking for a book. She looked to be twelve to fourteen, although you can't always tell just by looking at a kid. (At least I can't)  She picked up a book, and her father immediately told her to put it back. The cover, while not racy, made it clear this was a paranormal romance. Dad's comment, "Your mother wouldn't want you reading that." They eventually left without getting any books.

I won't fault any parent for what they do and do not let their child read. They know their individual child best, and have every right to decide about the age appropriateness of material. Where I would find an issue is someone deciding that no child should read something. And that undercurrent keeps turning up in discussions and blogs.

I myself moved from the children's section to the adult section around 7th grade. Somehow I made it through books laden with sex and violence and mass murder without ever become a killer or drug user myself. Go figure.

My return to reading YA came when my daughter was a teen and brought some into the house.  I learned that today's YA has depth and theme and a passion that is sometimes missing in adult books. There is sex, violence, drug usage and mayhem. Should every child read about books including these themes? Absolutely not.  But should they not even be written, as one source tired to claim recently - again, absolutely not.

I hope many of you feel as I do, that no matter how edgy the theme or voice, books that touch the reality of young lives need to be written. And there is an audience out there that needs to read them to find hope.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review - Robopacalypse

RobopocalypseRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I looked at the cover and thought about the movie A.I. I read the prologue and thought about Terminator. But this book is its own entity. It reads a lot like Asimov's robot stories (not the I, Robot movie, but the actual set of short stories about humanity interacting with robots). After staring at the cover for severalmonths and passing over it for other books, I finally picked it up - and could not go to bed until I had finished it.

In Robocolypse things go horribly wrong when a scientist creates Archos, a machine brain that is self-aware and interested in studying life, but without the messy interference of humankind. Thus begins a war that most humans aren't aware of until they are trapped by the machines that turn against them on what became known as Zero Hour.

This novel is told in vignette’s, short stories of the Hero's, a little girl who's doll threatens to hurt her brother unless she gets her Congressman mother to vote down a robot control bill, an old Japanese bachelor who sincerely loves his robot girlfriend, even after she literally takes a bite out of him, a teenager who gets so incensed when a prank he stages fails to get the news coverage he thinks it deserves that accidently uncovers the head of the robot conspiracy and is forced to flee for his life. In the end all of these people become heroes in a resistance they don't yet know humanity needs to survive.

This is a very mechanized future, where all but a few grandfathered vehiclesinclude computer brains that enable them to talk to each other to avoid accidents - and that let them trap helpless drivers once the war begins. Where robots encourage the return of animals while they create new and better machines to kill human beings. Where human survivors are herded into camps to serve the machines as cheap workers and experimental subjects. And where some human beings come together to become more than they ever dreamed possible.

Make no mistake, this is a science fiction war story, some scenes are both violent and emotional, and characters we come to care about disapppear into the camps or die, sometimes in horrible ways.

One thing I liked most about Robocalypse is that it doesn't take place just in the United States. In addition to pockets of resistance in America, this novel highlights efforts and heroes in Japan and Afghanistan, and acknowledges efforts and fighters and sacrifices in the Middle East, China and Russia. And in the end, some humanoid robots side with humanity and make their own sacrifices for freedom. In what seems to be a tradition in books like this, it leaves several openings for possible sequels, including the future of humanoid robot and human relationships, and the possibility that Archos is not really dead.

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