Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Archive for November, 2012

Alyson Is Always Holding Out Hope for the Next “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Posted by Alyson Gerber On November - 30 - 2012

546909x480 Alyson Is Always Holding Out Hope for the Next To Kill A Mockingbird

Despite the endless list of disappointments — The Indian in the CupboardHarriet The SpyTuck Everlasting — where the film adaptation just did not live up to what went on inside of my big, crazy imagination when I read the book, I cannot stop myself from going to see the movie version almost as soon as it comes out. 

The worst part is that when I walk into the theater, I really believe it is going to be magical, especially when the cast is amazing or when I love the director. I am already so excited for the new version of The Great Gatsby that I am re-reading the novel right now. More often than not, I leave feeling sad and defensive when the picture I had invented in my mind does not show up on the big screen. But I am always holding out hope that the film adaptation will do the book justice or better yet add another layer to the story. For this, I blame To Kill A Mockingbird. 

When I read Harper Lee’s novel for the first time in seventh grade, I could see Atticus, Scout, Calpurnia, and everyone in Maycomb, Alabama so clearly. They felt more important than characters. They become real people to me. After falling in love with the book, I watched the black-and-white version of the movie at home with my dad. I am sure I rolled my eyes and huffed, when he told me it was his favorite movie. But to Dad’s credit, nothing about the film adaptation disappointed me. Gregory Peck was Atticus Finch, just as I had imagined him. It challenged me to think about the story through a different lens, and it made reading the book better when I went back to it again and again.

So, when I shell out $13.50 to see a novel-turned-movie in theaters, I am always holding out hope that it will be the next To Kill A Mockingbird. 


Teen Adaptation That Works — TV Shows Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On November - 30 - 2012

 Teen Adaptation That Works    TV Shows Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game!My dirty little secret: I watch more teen TV than adult TV (just like my reading tastes). Eek! I am especially invested in the ABC Family series — Pretty Little Liars and A Lying Game. Both of these shows are based off of bestselling books by Sara Shepard and Alloy Entertainment. They smashed a lot of the earlier books into the first two seasons, but I loved seeing how they took book events and interpreted them on the small screen.

I think book adapters are most successful when they keep the characters the same. I can forgive fudging of the plot and switching things around, but I want to watch a show with a character I really loved from the books. I want that to be honored; their individual characterizations. Pretty Little Liars and A Lying Game both do that — keep the characters pretty much the same, give or take, and the stakes for each of them. They moved some of the details around, shifted plot points, but the essence of each girl was just how I had imagined it from reading the books.

Another element of the show that I enjoy is it’s reflection of current teen culture. My only criticism of the books was the pop culture references and clothing references, which could become outdated quickly. But in the show, it works so well. The references have been updated as the series progresses both in print and on TV, and reflect current teen obsessions with fashion, etc.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of A Lying Game to ABC Family. I feel in love with the characters, the drama, and the multicultural thread weaved through the narrative from the Arizona setting. Check it out. It’s back on ABC FAMILY starting January 8th. Get caught up!

YA for NJ: Bid on YA Swag for a Great Cause!

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On November - 29 - 2012

YA for NJ 300x300 YA for NJ: Bid on YA Swag for a Great Cause!Hello Teen Writers Bloc readers! Why are you reading this blog? Is it because you love YA books as much as we do? Well, if that’s the case, then you’re in luck, because you can buy books and swag from some of your favorite authors and support a great cause at the same time. The seven-day auction will begin this Friday, November 30, at 8:00 p.m., and here are just a few of the 170 fantastic authors who are participating:

Holly Black
Coe Booth
Libba Bray
Gitty Daneshvari
Matt De La Pena
Lisa Greenwald
Jenny Han
Ellen Hopkins
David Levithan
E. Lockhart
Megan McCafferty
Kate Milford
Kate Messner
Michael Northrop
Lauren Oliver
Kenneth Oppel
Rebecca Serle
Kieran Scott
Natalie Standiford
Cecily Von Ziegesar
John Corey Whaley
Jerry Spinelli

And this list is just the beginning! The 170 authors (including me!) will be offering a ton of great stuff. You can bid on signed copies of the authors’ books and collections of books. Some authors are offering Hollywood swag from their filmed projects. Some authors are even offering dedications or character names in future books. If you are a teacher, a parent, or just a friend of a school, you can bid on individual author visits, author panel visits, and Skype visits for your favorite school. One hundred percent of the proceeds will be donated to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey to aid in their efforts to feed the people most affected by hurricane Sandy. Yes, that’s one hundred percent of the proceeds, not profits. Every single item has been donated by the authors, so the entire amount raised will go to those who need it.

We know you love all things YA! Wouldn’t now be a great time to get something you always wanted and also support a great cause?

Follow this link to check out the YA for NJ auction now!

When It Comes to Adaptations, Sona’s Kicking It Old School

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On November - 27 - 2012

look 600x450 When It Comes to Adaptations, Sonas Kicking It Old School

Okay, so I couldn’t agree more with my pal Jess Verdi about how uber-awesome the TV version of The Vampire Diaries. In fact, some — myself included — would venture to say that the TV take is even better than the books (which, if you check them out, did get a bit nutty as the series continued). And there are plenty of other awesome examples of books  turned TV shows — like “True Blood” and “Pretty Little Liars.” There are also plenty of film adaptations of books — in fact, I recently did a gallery on them for Mom.Me, if you care to learn what’s hitting a theater near you sometime soon.

But my favorite adaptation to this day is an old school one. It’s a world I used to wish I could live in when I was a little girl, one dominated by feisty redheaded orphan (no, not Annie) who took a staid old town by storm. To this day, I love me some Anne of Green Gables. The 1985 TV movie adaptation of the Lucy Maud Montegomery series was flawless in its execution, following the travails of young Anne (played by the impeccable Megan Fellows), was thrilling to watch — the world I read in the books coming to life right there in front of my eyes. Sullivan Entertainment produced the books into a satisfying, uplifting and occasionally heartbreaking series, bringing to to life those moments where Anne got drunk on currant wine, warred with her grade school crush Gilbert Blythe, and eventually fell in love and experienced her first loss. You can relive all those moments in this awesome collectors’ box set of DVDS, which I will buy for my daughter Kavya when she’s old enough to enjoy them — but not until after we’ve read the books together, of course. I can’t wait.

One of These Days Amy Will Stop Talking About Tolkien… Or Not

Posted by Amy Ewing On November - 20 - 2012

Fellowship of the Ring One of These Days Amy Will Stop Talking About Tolkien... Or NotOkay, it’s not my intention to sound like a broken record, and I swear there are other books out there that I love, but the Lord of the Rings movies are my favorite book-to-film adaptations EVER. For one very simple reason: they were written, directed, and produced by a nerd. Like, a mega-nerd. There is so much heart in the way Peter Jackson translates the story to the screen, and you can tell how hard he worked to get every detail exactly right, things a lot of the audience would never even notice. The movies have a universal appeal for those who haven’t read the books, but provide many geek-out opportunities for those of us who have read them a billion times (The elven brooches! Elevensies! Every single freaking emblem on every flag!).

This is my problem with the Harry Potter movies—they are so busy trying to squeeze in every plot point from the books that they completely lose the love, the warm glowy feeling that reading Harry Potter brings with it. Jackson uses humor to highlight aspects of Middle Earth that don’t necessarily figure in to the main action of the story, but that make the world real and specific. Like the drinking contest between Legolas and Gimli, or the fact that Merry and Pippin eat a whole bunch of lembas bread without knowing that one small bite will fill you up. Do we need to know that elves pretty much can’t get drunk? No. But it’s fun to watch.

All right, I’m done with Tolkien for a while, I promise. Oh, wait. The Hobbit comes out in a month…

Photo credit: New Line Cinema

More Proof That Jess Can’t Stop Talking About the Vampire Diaries

Posted by Jessica Verdi On November - 19 - 2012

VD43ShotGarden2386re 2131320370192696794 600x449 More Proof That Jess Cant Stop Talking About the Vampire DiariesConfession: I love TV.

Confession #2: I’m not gonna apologize for it.

I know TV gets a bad rap, and I agree that most of what’s on nowadays is total crap. Reality shows about everything from fake boobs to the mafia to tattoos to cupcakes. Talk shows where all people do is scream at each other for no apparent reason. Cable “news” stations that somehow keep finding ways to fill 24 hours a day with rumor-mongering. Yeah, when you look at it that way, TV sucks. But there’s another way to look at it too.

Some of the scripted shows on the primetime lineup are excellent. They feature fantastic writing, gripping stories, compelling characters, stellar acting, and a sold hour’s (or half-hour’s) worth of quality entertainment (see: Dexter, Parenthood, The Walking Dead, Parks and Recreation, New Girl, The Newsroom, and so many more).

But there is one show that, for me, shines above the rest, that I’m so obsessed with that I’ll talk about it to pretty much anyone who will listen. Yeah, you all know where this is going: The Vampire Diaries.

And it’s based on a YA book series by L.J. Smith, so it totally fits in for this month’s question of the month on TV and film adaptations of YA and MG books!

The Vampire Diaries is, in a word, totally freaking awesome. (Okay, that was three words. Sorry.) And show creators Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson have done exactly what I believe is necessary when adapting a book series into a television series—they’ve used the book as a foundation for the story (the characters, the general plot, the setting), but then they’ve gone off on their own and, from that base jumping off point, created their own mythology. I think that’s what you need to do in cases like this, because:

A) Ideally, the TV series will last a long time and the writers will need to find ways to sustain the story even after they’ve run out of books to adapt.

B) Television is a much different medium than literature, so it’s important to work with what TV has to offer in the ways of visual images, CGI, special effects, 42-minute installments each with their own complete story arc, etc. In most books, we’re inside the characters’ heads much of the time—but just listening to a voiceover all throughout the show about what the character is thinking isn’t very entertaining.

Season 4 Poster elena gilbert 30909293 839 1079 466x600 More Proof That Jess Cant Stop Talking About the Vampire DiariesC) The world changes so fast (technology, how teenagers behave, etc.) so that books can become outdated pretty quickly. A television show is a much more “immediate” medium (most series film an episode between 4 and 8 weeks before the airdate), so they need to change certain things to keep up with the times (remember Bella’s ancient computer and slow-as-all-hell dialup connection in Twilight?).

D) Try as you might, you’re never going to find actors that fit the author’s description completely. In The Vampire Diaries book series, Elena (the heroine) is fair-skinned, blonde, and kind of a spoiled brat. The actor who plays Elena on the show, Nina Dobrev, is Bulgarian, has long dark hair, and plays Elena as far more kindhearted than she’s written in the books. Initially, the casting directors were looking for someone more like the Elena from the books to play the role, but they just couldn’t find anyone who was exactly right. Then they saw Nina, saw what she could do, and changed the role for her. Because they decided to go with the best actor they could find, rather than someone who simply fit the author’s physical description, the show became something different, yes, but also much more compelling than the book series.

So even though diehard fans of Smith’s Vampire Diaries series may still be bellyaching about the changes the show has made, I think the changes made for a better, more formidable story. And that’s what you need to do when adapting a book for the TV screen.

Photo credit: the CW


Jane’s Take on the Film Adaptation Issue

Posted by Jane Moon On November - 16 - 2012

cat in the hat Janes Take on the Film Adaptation IssueI used to hate when books are made into movies. I’m the kind of person who believes that the reader should use only their imagination and the author’s descriptions to know what a character should look like, how they sound and what kind of personalities they have.

Whenever I go to see a movie adaptation of a book, I prepare myself to be disappointed. I read Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher and I went to see it when it came out on the big screen. The movie ending made me wish I could get that hour and 30 minutes of my life back. I loved The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The film adaptation was decent but I still didn’t get that this-is-as-good-as-the-book feeling. And whoever came up with the idea to ruin Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat needs to stay out of the entertainment business. The closest I’ve come to liking the film version were both parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Sorry, but I felt the first six could have been better.)

The only movie that came the closest to my expectations was The Hunger Games. After an *ahem* intense peer group session with classmates Mary and Kevin, we decided to go see a movie. I actually liked this one. In fact, I thought it was almost as good as the book. Even though the characters weren’t quite how I had imagined them to be, I felt they were still excellent representations of the ones in the book.

Even though The Hunger Games was well done, I still don’t believe there can be a movie adaptation than can equal the book itself. But maybe when Catching Fire comes out, it might change my mind.

Book cover image courtesy of Random House BFYR

Corey Loves Roald Dahl in Book or Movie Form

Posted by Corey Haydu On November - 15 - 2012

willy wonka and the chocolate factory 20091006005120611 640w Corey Loves Roald Dahl in Book or Movie FormI thought this was going to be a challenging question. As a recovering actress and current writer, I’m a fan of both media and literature, and often am thrilled when a piece of literature I love is turned into a film I could also potentially love. That said, it is incredibly painful when the rest of the world only falls in love with the movie, and doesn’t ever get to know the wonder of the book. There are some authors whose work I love that constantly get translated into films I hate (please see: John Irving, one of my favorite authors, who suffers from this fate). And there are lots of movies I think are pretty good adaptations of books which are far better (Hunger Games, anyone?) But there is only one author whose work consistently translates into films I love almost or occasionally as much as the source material.

Roald Dahl!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an obvious one (the old one! Not the new one! NOT THE NEW ONE!). But there’s also Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Witches, and maybe my favorite film adaptation of a gorgeous book, Matilda. I mean, how charming is little Mara Wilson as the title character? And how perfectly sweet is Miss Honey? How terrifying is Agatha Trunchbull? The style of the movie perfectly matched the tone of the book, and the movie managed to both stand on its own and create some lovely nostalgia for the wonder of that beautiful novel.

Which is to say, it can be done. A book can be made into a good, great, even truly special movie.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

Book Review: The Theory of Everything by J.J. Johnson

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On November - 14 - 2012

The Theory of Everything 225x300 Book Review: The Theory of Everything by J.J. JohnsonI first discovered J.J. Johnson last year when her first book, This Girl is Different, came out. I loved it and reviewed it for the blog here, so I was really excited to get my Amazon pre-order of her follow up, The Theory of Everything. I was not, however, prepared for the totally completely overwhelming awesomeness that is The Theory of Everything. When I was finished with the book, pretty much all I could say was, Wow!

The Theory of Everything is about fifteen-year-old Sarah, whose best friend, Jamie, died about eight months before the book begins. The world has moved on, but Sarah’s life will never be the same. She’s pushed away her other friends and family and can’t even begin to go near Jamie’s twin brother, Emmett, or Jamie’s parents. She still has her sexy boyfriend, but she’s going through the motions. Sarah’s voice is humorous and realistic, never becoming depressing but never letting us forget what she’s going through. Sarah’s main comfort is her dog, Ruby, and even though personally I’m not a dog lover, I totally got it. I felt like I was inside a real person’s head, and all the external characters were painfully real. I don’t recommend reading the front cover copy, because it gives away plot stuff that I’m glad I didn’t know before reading.

There were several places where I cried yet no places where I felt manipulated. There were no brightly painted signs saying, “This is so sad! Cry here!” Just real, believable emotions naturally worked into a heartbreaking and heartwarming story. If I was on all those fancy awards committees, I’d have The Theory of Everything at the top of my list. Everyone go out and read this book now!

Cover image courtesy Peachtree Publishers

Mary Rants About Movies

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On November - 12 - 2012

Crying 300x199 Mary Rants About MoviesSo … this month’s topic is YA books made into movies. How can this not turn into a rant? Folks, I seriously tried to come up with a movie based on a YA book that I loved. But the truth is, even though some of them are okay in that they don’t make me scream and cry and yell “Why, God, Why?” none of them live up to the books they’re based on. I know this is a true fact, and every time a movie comes out based on a book I liked, I say I’m not going to watch it, but then I do. Take, for example, The Golden Compass, based on the book by Phillip Pullman. The movie did a really good job of following the events and characters of the book, but had none of the life or the magic. Pullman’s world simply didn’t appear on screen. I wish this was 1910 and I could go to a warehouse and burn all existing film for doing such injustice to a great book. Take The City of Ember, based on the book by Jeanne DuPrau. This, too, followed the events of the book, but the main characters were too old and the movie showed the scariest part of the book, when the entire city goes dark for seven minutes—a bone chilling thrill in the book—in full lighting. Why, God, Why? Take the Harry Potter films. How could anyone possibly do justice to this series? How can a true book lover accept a watered down, extensively cut snippet of such a classic? Take The Hunger Games. How could a true fan accept the movie’s lack of emotional resonance? Take Twilight, which … oh, never mind, I didn’t like the book anyway.

I could probably go on for hours and hours, blog page after blog page, until we’re all old and white-haired and crazy. I just have one more movie to discuss, which wins the award for Worst Movie Adaptation Ever: The Wizard of Oz. What? You say. This movie is a classic! That’s true, and to be honest, I did watch and re-watch the movie as a kid just like everyone else. But I read the book before I saw the movie, and I eventually read all of the original L. Frank Baum Oz books, plus many many more written by his successor, Ruth Plumly Thompson, and I love Oz. I love it just the way it is, as a real place and not a dream. Now, I bet L. Frank Baum, had he lived to see the movie, wouldn’t have had any problem with it, because shortly after the initial success of the book, it was turned into a traveling stage extravaganza that made him a lot of money, which he loved. He even put an army of knitting-needle-wielding girls in the second Oz book possibly for the sole purpose of becoming dancing girls during a future stage production. So I’m not defending the author’s honor here. I’m defending my honor as a reader, as the little girl who used to lie awake at night imagining walking down the yellow brick road and having adventures that would take her away from her boring life. That little girl was a firm believer in the world of the book and never took any stock with all that dream crap. How dare a bunch of filmmakers in Hollywood try to take away a little girl’s escape hatch and turn it into something smarmy and Technicolor and fake? Yes, movie adaptations of books I love make me angry. But dear Hollywood people, please buy my books and turn them into movies, because like L. Frank Baum, I need the money.

pixel Mary Rants About Movies

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