Teen Writers Bloc

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Archive for October, 2011

A Spooky Story for Halloween!

Posted by Teen Writers Bloc On October - 31 - 2011

Spooky stairs at the Swan Hotel in Burnley2 450x600 A Spooky Story for Halloween!Fanny turned on the flashlight. Now she could just barely see the steps. Why had she volunteered to do this? Hannah and Jenny’s laughter spilled into the tiny den behind her. Wimps. It was Jenny’s own house, and she couldn’t even come into the same room as the basement door. Jenny’s whole family was crazy. Imagine being too scared to even change a light bulb in your own basement. As if there could be anything but a few mice down here. Not that Fanny wanted to see mice. Ugh.

She started slowly down the steps. The flashlight flickered. Had it gotten dimmer? It didn’t matter anyway. All she had to do to prove they were all morons was go down, take one look around, and come back up. She quickened her pace, and soon she was almost at the bottom.

“Fanny?” Hannah’s voice came from above.

“I can’t! I’ll stay here!” said Jenny, in an exaggerated whisper.

Fanny rolled her eyes. “I’m so fine. There’s nothing down here!”

Crack. Her foot crunched through the bottom step. “Aaaah!” Fanny screamed out of surprise, grabbing for anything to hang on to. She landed in an incredibly awkward position, with her left leg twisted behind her. Three-quarters of her right leg was stuck inside the step. How was that possible? She was already at the bottom. “Hannah! One of the stairs broke. Get down here and help me!”

There was no response.

“Hannah?”

Fanny listened for her friends’ voices. “Jenny?”

Silence. No one came down the stairs. No one answered her shouts. She pulled her leg from the broken step. Miraculously, there wasn’t a bruise or a cut or a scratch. She picked up her flashlight and flashed it around the room. The light beam caught dark heaps of unrecognizable objects and rows and rows of old junk on shelves. Cobwebs danced along the walls, leaping from corner to corner. She pointed her light at the ceiling, searching for the fixture. She wanted to change the light bulb and get back upstairs as fast as possible.

She imagined the look on their faces when she triumphantly returned. She’d call Jenny a chicken just to see her pout, and she’d tease Hannah about being a wimp just to make her cheeks redden. Fanny stepped further into the cellar basement.

She wasn’t afraid.

 A Spooky Story for Halloween!The scurry of tiny feet echoed around her. Mice! Fanny scrambled backwards onto the broken staircase. Little red eyes peered at her in the darkness. They came closer and closer until they clustered all around her feet.

“Go away!” She wiggled her flashlight at them. “Shoo!”

The mice paid her no attention. Instead, they bypassed her and ventured into the hole her foot had left in the wooden staircase. She scooted further away, pulling her legs into her chest with the hope that they wouldn’t touch her. One by one, a train of little black mice scurried into the opening. After the last tail disappeared, she stuck her light into the hole. Small round bodies ambled down another staircase.

“Hannah? Jenny?” Fanny yelled. “There’s a …” Fanny’s words lodged in her throat. She didn’t quite know what she was looking at. How could another staircase be underneath Jenny’s cellar? A cool breeze made its way through the opening. Fanny ripped away more of the floorboards. The stubborn wood creaked as she yanked it. After removing two complete stairs, she could see down into the hole. A subtle glow akin to moonlight washed over the bottom of the mysterious stairs.

The mice reached the bottom. They all turned to look back up at her.

Come! they said in unison.

Their mouths didn’t move. Rather, the word rang as clear as a bell inside Fanny’s head. She’d never experienced anything like it before, and she shrieked and stumbled back at the shock of it.

Come, Fanny, the mice said again.

Fanny righted herself and stared through the opening, down at the creatures. As her gaze met those beady red eyes, she felt a calm wash over her. Gone was the fear of the basement, of the darkness, of the mice. All she could think to say, as she felt that cool air and strange light brush over her skin, was, “How do you know my name?”

We’ve been waiting for you, they said.

Though not exactly an answer to her question, that was all the explanation Fanny needed. She rested her dull, useless flashlight on one of the undamaged steps and slid through the hole in one swift movement. The gap in the stair was just the right size for her body, and in one second flat she was descending the hidden staircase.

From above, the length of the staircase had been deceiving. Now that Fanny was walking down it, it felt like it was going on much longer than it should have. Down and down she traveled, and yet there were still more stairs in front of her. It was especially frustrating because with each step she took, the more she yearned to be at the bottom, amongst the mice and whatever else awaited her down there.

 A Spooky Story for Halloween!She couldn’t see much, other than the mice and the steps and the light, because there were tall walls on either side of her, blocking her view of what she would find at the foot of the stairs. On a whim, Fanny reached out and ran her hand along the wall. In the instant that her fingertips connected with the unremarkable gray cement, she felt a jolt go through her, as if every miniscule cell in her body had been given a shock with defibrillator paddles. It reminded Fanny of the time Hannah and Jenny had dared her to drink five Red Bulls in five minutes—only way better. She felt energized, and strong, and like she could do anything. She pulled her hand away from the wall and picked up her pace.

That boost of magical energy was exactly what she’d needed. Finally, Fanny reached the bottom of the stairs. The first thing she noticed was that, from her bare arms to her sandaled toes, her skin was glowing. The second thing she noticed was that there were a lot more mice down here than she’d originally thought. They were everywhere—tens of thousands of them, lined up in neat military-like rows, staring up at her expectantly.

The third thing she noticed was the room around her.

The floor wasn’t really a floor; nailed into the cement were rafters, like she’d seen on the ceiling of her own basement, or even Jenny’s. In fact, on closer look, it looked an awful lot like Jenny’s basement, if she crooked her head like she was upside-down. Right above her on the ceiling she saw steps, two broken in, like the ones she had just crawled into. Fanny tried to shine a beam on the rest of her surroundings, but as soon as she did this, the tiny bulb flickered out, leaving her in complete darkness. Oh no! The only sign of light now came from the crack under the door of the stairs on the ceiling.

The only thing she could see around her were the eyes of the mice. Cobwebs decorated the rafters, making the mice look like they were perched on clouds.

Fanny knelt down and peered into the eyes of one of the mice. No pupils. Just white. She found herself reaching for it, but the mouse sneered, his eyes glowed red and he went in for a bite. Instinctively, she fell backward and let out an ear-piercing screech. The angry mouse snapped back into line, its eyes falling white again.

“I need to get out of here,” Fanny said out loud. Her heart thumped and she thought the mice could hear it. She went to turn around, to leave, but found no exit. The long staircase she had descended had disappeared. “You’ve got to be kidding me?”

Suddenly, squeaking laughter from the thousands of mice echoed all around her. She looked down and saw that every last one of them was now pointing at the steps stemming upward from the ceiling.

 A Spooky Story for Halloween!“And how do you suppose I get up those stairs?” she asked. “Now, if this were a fairytale, or a portal into Wonderland, this would be the part where a little bottle would pop up and say ‘Drink Me’ and I’d drink it and suddenly have the ability to fly or something, right?” At this point, she figured she was dreaming. No, she definitely knew she was dreaming. She had to be, right? Maybe when I fell in Jenny’s basement I hit my head and was knocked unconscious, she thought.

Still, she looked around. No magic bottle. No magic beans to grow a beanstalk. Nothing. Well, except for the mice.

“Would you stop staring at me?!” she yelled, flinging her defunct flashlight into the flea-bitten crowd. Still, they didn’t break formation.

She threw her hands up in the air in frustration, only to notice her fingertips glowing. She remembered her skin glowing as she walked down the long cement staircase, but it quickly went away when she reached Jenny’s upside-down basement.

She turned her palms toward the ceiling, toward the staircase, and immediately felt lighter on her feet. Looking down, she noticed that she was, in fact, hovering over the ground. For a moment, she hesitated, but since she was certain she was dreaming, she figured she might as well go with it and reached for the wooden banister above her.

When her fingers grazed the wood, Fanny felt a pang in her stomach and everything around her flipped in one swift, uneven movement. She was flung toward the staircase, and when she looked up, the basement was right-side up again. She looked to see where the mice had gone, she found them still on the rafters, hanging upside down above her head like furry bats. Their white eyes stared down at her.

They watched her as she climbed the stairs back into Jenny’s house.

“Jenny?” Fanny called when she reached the top of the stairs. “Hannah?”

Goosebumps spread up and down her arms as an icy breeze froze her in place. She clambered up the basement staircase. She found herself shivering in Jenny’s once warm family room. Everything was just as she had left it. The sleeping bags in the middle of Jenny’s lush family room, the snacks scattered across the floor, even the movie Hocus Pocus was still paused at the exact same spot it was at when they dared her to go into that wretched basement.

Still, there was no sign of Jenny. Or Hannah.

A floorboard creaked above her. Oh, so they’re upstairs? They want me to be really scared now, huh? Fanny thought.

“It’s not going to work…!” Fanny yelled. Wait until they hear about what I’ve seen. The mice. The upside down staircase. The glowing hands and skin.

She huffed upstairs and checked every room, Jenny’s, her parents, the guest room, even her older brothers room that was always Off Limits. Nothing. No sign of anyone. Not even Jenny’s parents.

As she started downstairs, she heard what sounded like a body flopping on a tile floor. She raced down the stairs and into the kitchen. Nothing. They’re quick, Fanny thought, but not as quick as me. I’m the schools cross-country star, not Jenny, she’s way too fat to run. And Hannah, she’s not smart enough to think of all of this.

Fanny walked out the kitchen, thoroughly pissed off. “Hello? Umm, ok, not funny anymore guys. What started off like a page from Coraline became some cheesey opening scene from Scream 10. Over it,” she shouted.

As she reached the living room, she saw Hannah and Jenny standing with their backs toward her, watching the paused TV screen.

“There you are! Seriously? Where did you guys go? I have to say, you had me…” Fanny said, reaching for Hannah’s shoulder. Hannah didn’t respond. She tapped Jenny, but Jenny didn’t flinch; her body was hard as the cement wall she had felt earlier, and just as cold.

Fanny began to hear the pitter-patter of small feet scurrying around her. She looked behind her and saw the mice hopping on Jenny’s furniture. When they stopped, Fanny grabbed Jenny and whisked her around, hoping to get the attention of her friends.

That’s when she noticed Jenny’s face, her skin droopy and tarred, like it had been melting. Her lips were replaced by a zipper. Her eyes, stark white.

 A Spooky Story for Halloween!She reached for Hannah, who looked the same; the only difference was that Hannah had her fingers on the zipper that had been sloppily sewn onto her chapped, bleeding skin.

“Cut it out, girls,” she said, but it didn’t feel like a prank anymore. The lights flickered.

They both looked Fanny right in the eyes, and instead of speaking, let out little grunts, sounding like angry dogs. There was a sickening stench in the room, like fresh vomit and rotting flesh. Fanny couldn’t get her eyes off Jenny and Hannah. They looked so pale… so weird. She took a step back. Then she realized that the smell was actually coming from them. They reeked!

Their flesh was rotting. Little black shiny worms came crawling out of Jenny eyes. A fat gray maggot slid out of Hannah’s right nostril and began to glide across her face. Within seconds, a thousand red tubeworms were going up and down Jenny’s hands.

Fanny could feel beads of sweat collecting on her forehead. Then, she felt something run down her spine. It wasn’t just sweat. It felt like something with feet. Like a bug. She scratched her back, and felt something gooey and oozing.

When she looked at her finger, she found a dead fly where her forefinger should have been. She shook her palm, but the fly just wouldn’t fall. The lights flickered again. Fanny looked up to Jenny and Hannah had disappeared. In place of the television screen was a mirror.

And in place of her own reflection, Fanny could only see the fly. This couldn’t be real. She HAD to get out of the room.

She took another step back and bumped into something. Someone. She turned around to see Jenny’s mother, Mrs. Capelli. Only, she was much broader and larger than her usual petite self. And tinted blue?

“Stay for dinner, Fanny,” said Mrs. Capelli. Only, it didn’t sound like Mrs. Capelli. There was something hollow about that voice, like it was coming from the end of a long tube. That’s when Fanny noticed the gleaming blade of the giant knife in Mrs. Capelli’s left hand. Her white apron was stained with specks of brown. Blood. It had to be blood.

Mrs. Capelli began to walk across the room towards Fanny. “Did you meet our friends from the basement?” The lights flashed violently now. Mrs. Capelli got closer to Fanny. “They’re really quite lovely, aren’t they dear?”

Thud. Thud. Thud. The floor shook with each step.

Something gripped Fanny’s ankles. She found herself unable to move. She tried to lift her left leg, but it just wouldn’t budge. She looked down and freaked out.

Around each of her ankles was a wrist, one belonging to Jenny, and another one to Hannah. They were lying on the floor, on their sides, grunting and growling. Jenny began to gnaw at Fanny’s toe.

Fanny thrashed back and forth and screamed until she had no voice. Her head felt foggy and light. She heard her name.

“Fanny.”

Her heart threatened to stop.

“Fanny!”

Sweat soaked her cheeks.

“Fanny!!!”

Her skin itched. She was dying she was certain of it.

“Open your eyes!”

Fanny listened to the voice. Painfully, she opened her eyes. Both Hannah and Jenny stared at her. Jenny stifled a giggle, but Hannah’s face wore concern.

“You fell,” Hannah said.

“What?” Fanny croaked out.

“You tumbled down the stairs,” Jenny said with a laugh.

“Girls! What’s going on down there?” Mrs. Capelli stood at the top of the basement stairs.

“Fanny fell!” Jenny called back.

“Where are the mice? The staircase?” Fanny’s eyes darted around. “You were….you both were…”

“What?” they said in unison.

Fanny gazed around. Her head throbbed with pain. A knot formed on the back of her head. Each time she moved pain shot through her entire body. She was sprawled at the bottom of the step. “Nevermind.”

The girls helped Fanny to her feet. They started back up the stairs. Mrs. Capelli brought an ice-pack.

“Mom, I think Fanny broke one of the wooden stairs when she fell,” Jenny said.

Fanny gawked behind her. In the slit beneath the basement door, she swore she saw the red glow of tiny eyes in the darkness.

This story was written by Teen Writers Bloc members Mary Thompson, Dhonielle Clayton, Jess Verdi, Riddhi Parekh, and Steven Shaw, in a round. One person started the story and then passed it to another person to add, then that person picked up where the first person left off and added text, then sent it on. The story took on many dimensions. We hope you enjoyed it. 

Photo Credit: Clitheroe Paranormal Investigators

Steven Asks, ‘Where’s My Goddamn Candy?’

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On October - 28 - 2011

jenna and steven 290x600 Steven Asks, Where’s My Goddamn Candy?Halloween is my favorite day of the year. I get to hide behind a disguise, ask people for free candy (and get it — that’s the best part), and if I wanted to cause some mischief with some shaving cream and toilet paper, Halloween is the only time of year I could potentially get away with it. Besides, who doesn’t like playing dress-up?

Okay, maybe that’s not everybody’s MO. But dressing up like somebody else has its perks. It’s a chance to live vicariously, to explore a new side of yourself, or in my case, to let one of my many personalities out for some fresh air.

Unfortunately, when the leaves start changing and store displays get spookier, I’m reminded that I have no money to explore my Halloween fantasies. I dream of elaborate costumes; I foam at the mouth when I see expensive disguises. My mind goes wild and I’m endlessly thinking about the possibilities. Sure, some of the best costumes I’ve seen (mostly in my college years) have been a patchwork of Salvation Army finds and a little make-up from the nearest co-ed  — like my old roommate who, in our senior year at Ithaca College, draped herself with a red bed sheet and plopped an old lamp shade on her head, attending parties as a “One Night Stand”   — but once you’re in the real world, Halloween costumes are decidedly more legit.

This year, for example, my best friend wants to be a sexified Roadrunner from Looney Tunes, and of course she wants me to be her Wile E. Coyote. I’ve been eBaying like crazy trying to find a suitable coyote suit, but nothing. Maybe if I rob a Six Flags, I’ll really be the hit of the party.

In any event, I’ve always been the guy with the best costumes. When I was six, I won Best Costume in elementary school for my version of the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. It was killer. Real strands of hay were super-glued all over my body, and the make-up was flawless. I probably should have won Costume of the Decade, but they didn’t have such an award. Whatever, I’m not bitter.

I’ve been Dino from The Flintstones, Daffy Duck, The Riddler (from the God-awful Batman Forever movie, which is a guilty pleasure of mine: “Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big. Black. BAT!”). I even channeled Will Ferrell as a Spartan Cheerleader from SNL during one drunken sophomoric Halloween, and in my senior year of high school I went all out as Captain Jack Sparrow, which was right after the movie came out, so nobody had thought of such a costume idea yet. Yeah, I’m a trendsetter.

This year, my boyfriend and I discussed going as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” complete with Army rags, badges and everything. Pretty rad, eh? But, I dropped the ball on that and never followed through. That’s the inherent problem with Halloween costumes post-undergraduate life. They can get expensive, and my practical sensibilities (and my wallet) don’t exactly allow me much wiggle room when it comes to extra spending for silly-yet-totally-awesome things like costumes.

So when I think about Halloween in regards to Teen Writer’s Bloc, I think of all the literary characters I could dress up as. No doubt I’ve sung the praises of the late Perry Moore and his comic book-inspired novel Hero. Thom Creed, the main character, would be a great choice. Or one of the many superheroes from that particularly awesome book.

But then I think: hardly anybody would recognize me. And as much as I love the book, part of what I love about Halloween is the back-and-forth guessing games associated with the various costumes encountered. And I fear that when I reveal my superhero identity, nobody will know, and thus I’d be deflated. See, I’m one of those all-about-the-center-of-attention Halloweenies. I need people to get it.

So that’s why my idea of going as Holden Caulfield is brilliant. Nobody will get it at first, but when they do, it’ll be epic.

Or a total failure.

All I know is that it’s cheap enough to manage, yet under the radar so that I won’t run into somebody else wearing the same costume. And it’ll give me some indie cred. Whatever that means.

Where’s my goddamn candy?

I am Eloise. I am Six.

Posted by Alyson Gerber On October - 26 - 2011

51otZF4bydL. SS400  I am Eloise. I am Six. I was two months old when my mother took the doll-sized scrubs and operating mask off of my doctor father’s snoopy and dressed me up as a surgeon for Halloween. At 1.2, I was Kermit the Frog, and at 2.2, Little Miss Liberty. Only I couldn’t say my L’s, so it was more like Yittle Miss Yiberty. We were a make-your-own-costume family and throughout my trick-or-treating years, most of my masquerades were based on fictional characters I had become obsessed with—Mary Poppins, Carmen San Diego, Alice in Wonderland, the Wicked Witch and the Easter Bunny. But sadly I never dressed up as a literary character—not for Halloween, anyway.

If I had, it would have been Eloise. I’m pretty sure there was a time, back when I could recite the book from memory, that I thought I was Eloise. To be clear, I was not a city child, and I did not live at the Plaza. But just like Eloise, I lived to make things up and loved to list the things I hated—like Peter Rabbit and getting bored.

Even though I was never allowed to order room service at 6 years old, I was sure I would have loved it—and I was right.

Jane Wants To Dress As A Dr. Seuss Character!

Posted by Jane Moon On October - 24 - 2011

 Jane Wants To Dress As A Dr. Seuss Character!When I was a kid, Halloween costumes were extremely simple. The mask would resemble a Saturday morning cartoon character’s face with holes punched out for seeing and breathing. An elastic band went around your head to keep the mask on. The costume that went with the mask was usually a plastic outfit that was colored to look like what the cartoon character would wear. This went over your own clothes, similar to disposable rain clothes.
Looking at Halloween costumes today, I’m amazed at how sophisticated and original they’ve become. There are the witches and monsters that appear every year, but I can see how much time and effort goes into the makeup. There was one year where I saw someone dressed as an armchair for the Halloween Parade in the Village. Another year, a friend of mine decided to go as a geisha. Her costume was an actual kimono that she had brought back from her trip to Japan.

What would I dress up as this year? My first choice would be any Dr. Seuss character. I love how they all have the same fuzzy head of hair and round belly, yet they’re each different. Another fun costume would be Max, from Where the Wild Things Are. Of course, you would need an entourage of monsters to walk around with you. Or if I didn’t want to go out to buy materials just for one Halloween costume, I could color my hair red and put on anything dramatic – such as fairy wings, a feather boa, or a tutu – and go as Fancy Nancy.

Halloween is a great time to be something or someone I normally wouldn’t have the chance to be. I can’t wait to start on my costume!

Author Interview: Tracey L. Pacelli’s Time Warped

Posted by Jessica Verdi On October - 20 - 2011

Time Warped Author Interview: Tracey L. Pacellis Time WarpedI recently caught up with Tracey L. Pacelli — friend of Teen Writers Bloc and author of the new paranormal YA novel Time Warped.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer? What did you do before you “officially” became a writer?

In 5th grade we were given an assignment to write a sci-fi short story. My teacher  chose mine to read in front of the class, declaring it the most inventive. I never forgot the thrill it gave me to be singled out that way. Afterward, my best friend said I was talented and that was basically it for me. I knew I was a writer and would someday follow that path.

Before writing, I chased those “glamour” positions that pay very little, working administrative type jobs at CBS, HBO and the NBA, all in New York. It was fun, especially HBO, but I could barely pay for the Upper West Side closet my landlord creatively called an apartment, so I jumped ship and headed to a financial office in a little place called The World Trade Center, building #7. Beautiful area, but I didn’t mesh very well with the Trump wannabes. So, I fired myself and headed for Charleston, SC, with my new hubby. In Charleston, I worked for a scary police chief in the paralegal dep’t and about a year later I was a ballroom dance instructor at The Fred Astaire Dance Studio. The ballroom had no bathroom, and the students had to go across the street. After only one month of lessons, I was expected to teach! I wasn’t ready, so I headed for that bathroom across the street and never came back.

What made you want to be a writer? Do you write full-time now?

Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek made me want to write. Since I couldn’t actually share in the crew’s adventures, I had no choice but to imagine myself on the Enterprise as a red-headed, Venusian navigator in love with Captain Kirk, and penned many exciting episodes for myself over the years.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of Time Warped? How did you come up with the concept for the book?

Time Warped is about a troubled teen, Lanie Landry, who wakes up one day to find herself in an insane asylum, back in 1969. There she meets her biological mom for the first time and falls for a mysterious inmate.

I’d just seen Shutter Island and knew immediately I was drawn to the setting of an insane asylum. Call me crazy–and many do–but I thought, how about we put a teen in one who didn’t actually belong there, and I’ll add some Twilight Zone twist to the story. I’ve always been fascinated with time being a man-made construction and I like to fool with the idea of taking that construction apart, till it no longer makes sense. In other words, I think time travel is really cool.

What’s your writing process? What does a typical writing day look like? Where does your inspiration come from?

It used to be I’d spend the larger portion of my day writing and leave the marketing, cleaning, preparing meals and listening to my daughter and husband’s rants, for my evening chores. Now, everything’s basically gone to Hades, including my family’s basic needs, and I find myself knee-deep in the gorilla marketing trenches, unable to climb out. Of course, the novel only just launched and there’s a need for me to push it out into the world, much like a newborn. But it’s a labor of love, and I actually am enjoying finding ways to hammer my book over the heads of unsuspecting readers. Hmmm…wonder if Vistaprint sells hammers with book image?  Must look into that.

As for inspiration, pop culture usually feeds it nicely. Whatever I’m watching on TV, at the movies, or reading in my daughter’s teen mags (don’t tell her I borrow them), becomes fodder for the muse I keep locked up in my basement.

Tracey Pacelli 300x225 Author Interview: Tracey L. Pacellis Time WarpedThere are a lot of pop culture references in Time Warped, which I found really helped develop the character of Lanie and grounded us in a real place and time. Did you do this intentionally or was that a happy accident?

Funny, I just answered your question. Must be psychic. I really do love pop culture, which is probably why The Gilmore Girls is my second all-time favorite show, right after Star Trek. Lorelei is a master of pop culture and I can only bow to her greatness. Rosie is another pop-culture goddess. I hope one day I may be in their league and maybe go bowling with them sometime.

What has your path to publication been like? What’s been the most surprising part of the writing/publishing process for you?

I wrote it and they came! But, first I had to walk thousands of miles barefoot over sharp rocks, swim through a feces infested moat, use my body as a battering ram to knock down the castle door, and sleep atop a thousand mattresses with this annoying pea underneath. Only then was I given the keys to the castle. Translation: As a writer I cried waterfalls of tears over the years, facing overwhelming rejection to finally land this amazing deal at Gypsy Shadow Publishing. And, I’d do it all again.

What was surprising part? To Quote Sally, “They liked me…they really liked me!”

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

Every rejection moves you one step closer to success!

What was your favorite book when you were a kid/teenager? What is your favorite children’s or young adult book today? What are you reading now?

Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice. I know, every girl loves that book, so why should I be any different? I’ve always loved to laugh at ridiculous people. Jane Austen had such a gift for exposing them. Though I used to think I wouldn’t be caught dead in a room with Mr. Collins, I actually now have a couple of friends who are very much like him and I thoroughly enjoy their company!

Presently, I’m reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?

I actually belong to The Royal Book Club in downtown Asheville for parents who like to read young adult books. Sounds crazy, right? But we’ve already established I’m a bit off my rocker. At the meetings, we dissect the writing to such detail, it becomes a great learning tool for me as a teen author.

What’s up next for you?

I’ve completed the first draft of a new teen trilogy I’m quite excited about called Already Gone. It takes place just a wee bit into the future and then travels back and forth to Atlantis during its final days before the apocalypse.

There’s also my littleredwriter paranormal blog, where I try to mix in a little humor with weekly paranormal news at www.traceypacelli.com.

Thanks so much for this interview. I’m a great fan of TWB and wish all the writers much success!

Thanks so much, Tracey! Time Warped is available now in print and e-book format!

Lauren Myracle: A Class Act

Posted by Caela Carter On October - 20 - 2011

crop ShineCover Lauren Myracle: A Class Act

Lauren Myracle, you are the definition of a class act.

By now we know the story: Myracle’s most recent teen novel, Shine, was nominated for a National Book Award.  She was informed about the nomination via phone call; she kept the biggest secret of her life bottled up in her heart for two full days. Then she celebrated the joy of being recognized so highly with her family for two full hours.

Then came the “oops.” The NBA judges had meant to nominate the book Chime, but when they read the list of titles over the phone the message was unclear.  At first, Myracle was told that by a unanimous decision the judges would leave her book on the short list. But that was apparently another mistake, because later the NBA committee asked her to withdraw her name.

Ouch.

So we all know what happened. Now we’ve been able to read about Ms. Myracle’s feelings on the Huffington Post and hear her side of the story on NPR. But the devastation of this even can be summed up in one sentence from her interview with Vanity Fair.

“I felt ashamed that I had the gall to believe this book was worthy.”

Heck yeah, this book is worthy. Because it deals with a hate crime in a way that brings humanity to both the victim and the criminal. Because it’s a mystery fraught with raw emotion. Because it’s sense of setting is apt and palpable. Because it’s narrator is the most open-minded person in the book, and even she needs to pry her mind further open. Because it deals with religion in a way that is not damning or preachy. And, perhaps most impressively, because it brings humanity to even the most ignorant and hateful characters.

So it angers me greatly to know that this book will not be winning the National Book Award, after I thought it just might. I want lash out and scream at the NBA judges and anyone else who will listen. And if it’s making me angry, how must Lauren Myracle feel?

Well, regardless of how she’s feeling, she is certainly acting like someone who would write such a touching and respectful book.  She’s turned her devastation into a donation to the Matthew Shepherd Foundation, which, she told NPR, “works on protecting the integrity of young people and putting tolerance over hate.” She’s referred to Harold Augenbraum, NBA committee member and the bearer of the bad news, as a “darling.” She made jokes in her Vanity Fair interview. She’s defended the work of Franny Billingsly — author of now NBA-nominated Chime — and all of the nominated authors. And, she’s defended the humanity of the NBA judges and committee, saying there is no way that they removed her book as an act of intolerance, and that they simply made a mistake, as all people do.

Ms. Myracle, I have always been a fan of your books and it is heartening to know that you practice what you write. Because it’s hard to be a good writer, but it just might be harder to be a good person.

Photo credits: Amulet Books

 Inspired By Its The Great Pumpkin: Dhonielle Wants To Be Frieda For Halloween!As a former elementary school teacher, I miss the pure enthusiasm for Halloween. As soon as I changed my school bulletin board calendar to the month of October, the children would come in excited to talk about what they would be for Halloween and what kind of candy they wanted. We would plan a class party, make trick or treat bags and we’d all keep our costumes a secret until the Halloween class party. My students would dress up as a variety of things — witches, ghosts, princesses, vampires, superheroes. But the literary characters that showed up in my classroom were Harry Potter, Willy Wonka, The Cat in the Hat, Hermoine Granger, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Wicked Witch from Oz, Alice in Wonderland, The Queen of Hearts, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, Captain Underpants, The Stinky Cheese Man, and more.

If I decide to forgo my usual Halloween costume — a Leprechaun — I will try to put together a costume  reminiscent of Charles M. Schultz’s Frieda, the girl “with naturally curly hair.” My hair lends itself to the costume and I just love her little saddle shoes, striped socks, and her unabashed love for her “naturally curly” hair. I also found a yellow dress at a second-hand shop that would be perfect. But I may just end up looking like a Brooklyn hipster instead of Frieda.

Every October I look forward to CBS playing It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and watching Linus wait in the pumpkin patch for the “great pumpkin” to rise like a ghost from the dead. I will cancel evening plans in order to come home and watch the special. Throughout the year I listen to Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack, especially The Great Pumpkin Waltz, and get excited for my favorite month of the year, so I figure I might as well do a tribute to Schultz and Charlie this year.

I wonder if anyone will recognize me.

Literary Halloween Costumes: Corey’s Laziness Leads to Inspiration!

Posted by Corey Haydu On October - 18 - 2011

51TTM0JBDTL1 204x300 Literary Halloween Costumes: Coreys Laziness Leads to Inspiration!I am so uninspried by all things Halloween that I had to do actual RESEARCH to write this post. I googled Literary Halloween Costumes. That’s how uncreative I am when it comes to Halloween. I learned about Literary Halloween Costume Parties (from 2008, so don’t get too excited — no cool event to report from my internet research), and some Literary Halloween Costume Ideas, which ranged from Harry Potter to Dickensian characters to Nancy Drew. (Something to consider. My mother would be proud, at least.)

Then I went through my last few years of (totally uninspired) Halloween costumes. The most successful was a pregnant Britney Spears, complete with MILF T-shirt and a gutsy girlfriend who got corn rows and played my K-Fed. That must have really worn me out, because I promptly spent the following three years dressing as Little Red Riding Hood on Halloween. I guess she is, technically speaking, a literary character. But I lost my cute red hooded cape in my move to Brooklyn, and one can only have so many pictures on Facebook of oneself as Little Red Riding Hood before one starts looking just flat-out sad.

My only other Literary costume was Peter Pan (my friend was Wendy), which was downright adorable when I was seven. I’m tempted to break out the green tights and make it work again.

But that takes a lot of work. So did my other ideas of Amelia Bedelia or Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Just as I was about to give up on ever writing this post, and ever going out in costume for Halloween, I figured out the perfect lazy-man’s childrens book costume. HARRIET THE SPY. Glasses. Red hoodie. Jeans. Marble notebook.

DONE.

Because I pretty much already am Harriet the Spy. And isn’t Halloween just the littlest bit about finding a connection between yourself and a character you love? Sometimes we go fantastical (Peter Pan) but sometimes it feels good to stick close to home. And Harriet is a nice comfy place to spend my Halloween.

Steven Says: Rejection, It’s Part of the Process

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On October - 17 - 2011

20060607 Steven Says: Rejection, Its Part of the ProcessI got my first rejection letter for my query on How I Set Myself On Fire.

I’m not defeated, though. I’m not even fazed. Sure, I had hopes when I submitted my query letter and the agent immediately responded saying that he’d be interested to read what I wrote. Who wouldn’t be psyched to receive interest on your first query letter?

I won’t lie. I had visions of an e-mail saying “I want to represent you right now. Be in my office in five minutes so I can shower you with gumdrops and rainbows and sunshine and lots of good will and money money money.” I had Disney-esque fantasies of this agent slipping a glass slipper of excellence on my foot and saying, “We’re a perfect fit!” (Okay, maybe I just got a little weird with that example but whatever.)

But I knew it couldn’t be that storybook-like.

I was right.

Five days after submission, a big, fat rejection e-mail popped up in my inbox. Still, the rejection was nicely put:

“Dear Steven,

Thanks much for sending How I Set Myself On Fire, which I read with great interest. Unfortunately, I’m going to be passing at this time.

Fiction, as I’m sure you know, is just about the toughest thing to sell in the current marketplace. I need to really fall in love with something before I can even think of taking it on. Though there is much to appreciate here, I’m afraid that I ultimately didn’t believe I would be its best advocate.

Thank you again, sincerely, for the chance to take a look.”

Sounds promising, no? At least he was interested enough to request the full manuscript. I totally understand that agents and publishers have to, without a doubt, love what they’re representing/publishing (respectively). Otherwise, how could they possibly advocate for a book?

All writers go through their fair share of rejection. Hell, I experienced countless rejections three years ago when I stupidly thought I was ready to publish this book I wrote called Breathing in Secret. (Insert laughter here.) I still have that stack of rejection letters sitting in my desk drawer. Every great writer has been rejected. It’s the way of the world.

And what would I do if I gave up now?

Where would J.K. Rowling be if she had stopped submitting Harry Potter after she was rejected repeatedly? We’d never know the incredible world she created, a world that has since taken on a life of its own.

Where would all the great novels be if their respective writers had given up? We’d have nothing to read.

So I’m not giving up. If anything, my resolve is stronger. There’s a long road left in front of me, but I won’t be stopping until How I Set Myself On Fire is on store shelves.

You heard it here first.

Photo Credit: Funny Times

Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference Tips

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On October - 14 - 2011

New logo 2008 Rutgers One On One Plus Conference TipsTomorrow’s the big day.

For months now, I’ve been gearing up for the Rutgers One-On-One Plus Conference, an annual application-only event hosted by the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. My TeenWritersBloc buddy Dhonielle told me about the conference, which she attended last year. She said it was amongst the best out there for kid lit and YA writers because it’s so intimate: for every aspiring author, there is one industry professional, whether it be an author, agent or editor. That’s pretty cool. At Rutgers, you’re pretty much guaranteed to absorb tons and tons of information about how all this industry stuff works, because a) you’re paired up with a mentor who chats with you one-on-one about your work and b) you’re also grouped with five other mentees at a round-table question-and-answer session with five other mentors. And then there are keynotes and a panel to boot.

But because the conference is so small, it’s best to be prepared going in. So what have I done to prepare? I’ll admit, not as much as I’d like. But I have been to many conferences (screenwriting and journalism) in the past, so here’s my to-do list for Rutgers Prep:

1. Be Professional. Yeah, it’s a Saturday. And yeah, it’s a children’s literature conference. But publishing is a business, and as such, I plan to go to the event rocking a professional vibe — in the way I dress, in the way I approach people, in the way I take notes. Which isn’t to say I won’t have fun. What’s the point of being in a room full of like-minded people if you can’t relax and enjoy their company a bit?

2.Do Your Research. The Rutgers Council posted the names of many of the mentors — agents, authors and editors — who will be attending. But we won’t get our background packet till tomorrow morning, at registration. So I’ve started looking up and making notes on a few people I’d love to have the opportunity to meet. I’ve also asked some of my in-the-know pals if there’s anyone I should specifically hope to introduce myself to.

3. Know How to Define Your Work — And Yourself. Marketing yourself is hard work. But given my screenwriting background, I know I can rock out a quick two-sentence pitch on my W-I-P — and myself — without stumbling or hesitation.

4. Be Open. I may interview people for a living, but when it comes to networking, I suck. It just feels so forced and fake to me. But when I get to the conference tomorrow, I’m really going to make an effort to be open to talking to people, the agents, editors, and authors — but also my fellow writers. Because again, most of the people there will there for the same reason: because they’re passionate about writing books for kids and teens.

5. Take Notes. Tomorrow’s sure to be action and information-packed. That’s why I plan to take plenty of notes. It’s hard to absorb it all not the spot, but Dhonielle says her packet from last year is like an industry bible, chock full of details about people and publishing that she’ll use for years to come. I’m also prepping a bit with specific questions in mind for both my one-on-one mentor and the five-on-five folks, so I can get the most out of both sessions.

6. Enjoy! I’ve turned the event into such a big deal in my head, I have to remember that it’s supposed to be fun as much as it educational. So tomorrow, I’ll have to remind myself to relax and enjoy the moment. Because it will all be over before I know it. And then it’s back to the work at hand, which is really the most important thing, in the end.

Phew. That’s a lot to remember. Luckily, I asked for conference vet Dhonielle for a few of her own pointers for tomorrow’s event (and a lot of them echo my plan-of-action — YAY!). Here’s what she has to say:

Dhonielle’s Tips for Rutgers:

  1. Mingle. Don’t sit alone or eat alone. Network, network, network!
  2. Hand out business cards. Take advantage of the agent and editors, but more importantly the other fellow strong writers!
  3. Take copious notes during the panels, the five-on-five and and the one-on-one.
  4. Have your pitch practiced and ready. People will ask you what you’re working on a thousand times. Be ready to fire back.
  5. When you get to the conference, read the packet. Don’t skim. Sit and read it, so you know who is who, and which editors and agents are at the conference.
Lots to keep in mind. What are your best conference tips?

Wish me luck tomorrow!

Photo Courtesy Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature
pixel Rutgers One On One Plus Conference Tips
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