Teen Writers Bloc

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

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It’s Launch Day for Caela Carter’s ME, HIM, THEM AND IT!

Posted by Jessica Verdi On February - 26 - 2013

Screen Shot 2013 02 25 at 11.45.23 AM 199x300 Its Launch Day for Caela Carters ME, HIM, THEM AND IT!Today is a big day at Teen Writers Bloc — it’s the release of our very own Caela Carter‘s debut novel, Me, Him, Them and It!

When Evelyn decided to piss off her parents with a bad reputation, she wasn’t planning to ruin her valedictorian status. She also wasn’t planning to fall for Todd—the guy she was just using for sex. And she definitely wasn’t planning on getting pregnant. When Todd turns his back on her, Evelyn’s not sure where to go. Can a distant mother, a cheating father, an angry best friend, and a (thankfully) loving aunt with adopted daughters of her own help Evelyn make the heart-wrenching decisions that follow?

Caela began writing this incredible story during our first semester at The New School, so several of us at TWB were lucky enough to get to read early drafts of the book before anyone else. And now that it’s out there for all to read, we know it’s going to make quite the splash in the YA lit world.

I’ve held a finished copy of Me, Him, Them and It in my hands, and let me tell you — it’s beautiful. Definitely something I’d pick up off the shelf and Barnes and Noble. And we hope you will too!

If you’re in the New York area you can come celebrate the release of this book with us and with the author herself at the launch event on Thursday, February 28th at 6:30 PM at the Corner Bookstore on Madison Avenue at 93rd Street.

Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdi’s MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by Jessica Verdi On January - 15 - 2013

photo 224x300 Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdis MY LIFE AFTER NOWHi gang!

To celebrate the impending release of my contemporary YA novel MY LIFE AFTER NOW (Seriously, is it April yet? I’m tired of waiting!), I’m doing a Goodreads giveaway! The giveaway is open from now through March 1, and one winner (chosen at random by Goodreads) will get a signed advance reader copy of the book. Woot!

Here’s what the book’s about:

WHAT NOW?

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends? How will she face her family? Now, every moment is a precious gift. She never thought being positive could be so negative. But now, everything’s different…because now she’s living with HIV.

And here’s the link to the giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

15752348 Enter to Win a Signed ARC of Jessica Verdis MY LIFE AFTER NOW

My Life After Now

by Jessica Verdi

Giveaway ends March 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Because it’s the most wonderful time of the year, apparently, here’s what’s on my to-be-watched list, in no particular order:

festivus.jpg.scaled500 300x225 Jess’s Recommendations for the Best Holiday Themed Movies and TV Episodes EverThe Festivus episode of Seinfeld

Actually titled “The Strike,” this episode of Seinfeld first aired December 18, 1997 and made Festivus a worldwide sensation – and a holiday that people (myself included) actually celebrate! The secular holiday Festivus is celebrated on December 23, and traditionally features a metal pole set up in one’s home (in lieu of a Christmas tree or menorah) and a practice known as the “airing of grievances,” in which everyone tells everyone else all the ways they’ve disappointed them throughout the year. Ha!

Adam Sandler’s “Chanukah Song” from SNL

This just might be my favorite thing ever. I was 13 when this aired for the first time, and I think it may have been the very moment I first fell in love with Mr. Adam Sandler. “The Chanukah Song” is a hilarious-but-true song that lists the names of famous Jews and reminds the kids who are jealous of their Christmas-celebrating friends that they’re in good company. Love it love it love it. Check it out:

A Christmas Story 300x167 Jess’s Recommendations for the Best Holiday Themed Movies and TV Episodes EverA Christmas Story

It’s not just one of the best holiday movies ever, it’s one of the best movies ever, period. Based on Jean Shepherd’s short story collection In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash, this ABSOLUTELY GENIUS film is almost not really about Christmas at all (I mean, it is, but also not really), but rather a very simple, yet very real look at what it’s like to be a nine-year-old in late ’30s/early ’40s middle America. It covers so many of the universal issues of childhood: bullies, fear of disappointing your parents, jealousy, schoolyard pranks, and the dream of growing up and showing everyone who picked on you when you were a kid just how wrong they were. And the acting and writing is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

The Family Stone 300x199 Jess’s Recommendations for the Best Holiday Themed Movies and TV Episodes EverThe Family Stone

I feel like this movie never really had a chance. It was advertised as a feel good romantic comedy in which Sarah Jessica Parker starts off dating one brother and ends up falling for the other… and hilarity ensures. Except that’s not what the movie is at all. Rather, it’s an incredibly touching drama about a close-knit family celebrating what very well may be their mother’s last Christmas (she’s battling cancer). If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it. If you have and didn’t like it, I urge you to watch it again — without the rom-com expectations this time.

A Charlie Brown Christmas 300x183 Jess’s Recommendations for the Best Holiday Themed Movies and TV Episodes EverA Charlie Brown Christmas

Usually when people describe something as “a classic,” that’s just a nice way of saying that yeah, whatever it is is pretty lame, but it’s been around forever and makes us feel all warm and nostalgic, so we love it anyway despite its lameness. But A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of those rare productions that actually lives up to its “classic” status. It’s hilarious and witty and touching and simple and beautiful. And the soundtrack, performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, is magical. And you know what’s sad? It would never be made today.

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

 

Which Book Does Jess Wish She’d Written?

Posted by Jessica Verdi On September - 19 - 2012

 Which Book Does Jess Wish Shed Written?What’s the one book you’ve read that you wish you’d written?

With all the books I hold dear to my heart, you’d think this would be a tough question for me. But it’s not. There is, hands down, one book out there that I wish I’d written. And that one book is Ned Vizzini’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story.

Now, this question is not: what is your favorite book? It’s Kind of a Funny Story is, in fact, one of my favorite books, but that’s not the point.

The reason I chose this book as the one that I wish I’d written is because Vizzini does so brilliantly what I try to do in my own work – he tackles a very serious issue, but puts a positive spin on it.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about Craig Gilner, a fifteen-year-old with depression so severe he checks himself into a psychiatric hospital without his parents’ knowledge – but only after spending a very long night planning out every detail of his suicide. When Craig gets to the hospital he is faced with two surprises: 1) He can’t just stay for the day, get some medication, and go on his merry way. He must stay for a minimum of five days. 2) The teen wing is undergoing renovations, so he’s admitted into the adult psych wing, where he meets some very colorful characters.

Read the first line, and you’ll be hooked: It’s so hard to talk when you want to kill yourself.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is simultaneously one of the most depressing, heartbreaking, inspiring, and hilarious books I have ever read, and Vizzini writes with absolute authenticity. At the end of the book, there’s a note that reads as follows: Ned Vizzini spent five days in adult psychiatric in Methodist Hospital, Park Slope, Brooklyn, 11/29/04 – 12/3/04. Ned wrote this 12/10/04 – 1/6/05.

I mean, it doesn’t get more real than that. And I, for one, am incredibly glad that Vizzini was brave enough to write his story.

And bonus – the novel was turned into a movie that came out in 2010 and starred the brilliant Keir Gilchrist as Craig, as well as delivered spectacular performances from Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, and Lauren Graham.

Read it. Watch it. Love it.

Book cover image courtesy of Disney Hyperion.

Jess’s Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by Jessica Verdi On September - 4 - 2012

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!

Okay, I know it’s not considered customary or proper to begin a blog post with what is essentially a scream, but I can’t help it. My book has a cover! Check it out:

9781402277856 3001 Jesss Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

MY LIFE AFTER NOW, my contemporary YA novel, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2013. Yes, that’s April Fools’ Day, but hey, that just makes the release date easier to remember! Here’s the back cover copy:

WHAT NOW?

Lucy just had the worst week ever. Seriously, mega bad. And suddenly, it’s all too much—she wants out. Out of her house, out of her head, out of her life. She wants to be a whole new Lucy. So she does something the old Lucy would never dream of.

And now her life will never be the same. Now, how will she be able to have a boyfriend? What will she tell her friends?  How will she face her family?  Now, every moment is a precious gift.  She never thought being positive could be so negative. But now, everything’s different…because now she’s living with HIV.

And I love my cover! The Sourcebooks Fire design team really outdid themselves. I love the red dress (symbolic of the HIV but without being overly obvious), the stage-like lighting (the light flares are my favorite), and how she seems to be bravely facing her future—whatever it may hold. I also love the color scheme—it’s just so pretty!

Let me tell you—seeing my cover for the first time a couple of weeks ago made this whole “I’m getting published” thing a whole lot more… well, real. I cannot wait to get to walk into a Barnes and Noble and see my book on the shelves. Only seven months to go!

Click here to pre-order My Life After Now from Amazon!

Click here to add My Life After Now to your Goodreads list!

Book cover image courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire

 Too Much Reading is Making Jesss Eyes Cross (But Shes Not Complaining!)This has been a crazy summer for me, reading-wise. I’ve both read more than I’ve ever read before in my life, and at the same time didn’t get to read nearly as much as I would have liked. See, I work as an editor for a romance novel publisher. So forty-plus hours per week, I’m reading. I read full manuscript submissions and decide whether to pass, offer a contract, or write up a revision letter. I read contracted authors’ manuscripts and work my editorial muscles, helping the authors take their work to the next level. I also proofread, copyedit, write back cover copy, format and style for eBook publication, and wade through countless queries and plot synopses. It’s a LOT of reading. And I love every second of it.

However, because I’m reading all day every day, the last thing I want to do when I get off work at six o’clock is open a book. My poor eyes need a break! Still, I have managed to squeeze in a bit of extracurricular reading this summer. I’ve gotten the chance to read amazing first drafts and equally as amazing revisions from my fellow TWB peeps. I also read The List, by New School alum Siobhan Vivian, which was wonderful (although the third person-present completely threw me off and I felt like the whole book was being narrated by Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone). But by far my guiltiest pleasure so far this summer was Freefall – Season 9, Volume 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Moline. Yep, it’s a graphic novel, and yep, it’s a continuation of the almighty genius that was the Buffy television series. And yep, the whole graphic novel series is abso-freaking-lutely fantastic.

In a couple of days, I will be taking a bit of time off from my lovely editorial job and getting on a plane with Dhonielle to go visit our dear friend Amy in South Africa. It’s a 15-hour nonstop flight, people, and you can bet I’m prepared. My in-flight reading queue consists of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Vicious Deep by (my fellow Sourcebooks Fire author) Zoraida Cordova, and I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. Who knows, maybe one of those will knock Buffy off her pedestal as the best thing I’ve read this summer… time will tell!

Book cover image courtesy of Dark Horse

Why Jess Is Okay With Being Compared to Laundry Detergent

Posted by Jessica Verdi On June - 13 - 2012

Branding Why Jess Is Okay With Being Compared to Laundry DetergentNow what?

Now that school’s over, it’s the question all of us at TWB are asking ourselves this month. And it’s one that can be interpreted many ways. I’ve decided to view the “Now what?” question through the lens of “branding.”

When you’re an author first starting out in the literary world, you hear people talk a lot about your “brand.” What kind of author are you? Fantasy? Contemporary? Literary? Commercial? Middle grade? Young adult? Do you write “issue” books? Do you write comedy? Do you write from the point of view of boys or girls? First person or third person? It’s incredibly bizarre to think of yourself as a commodity like this, something to be marketed, bought, and sold, like laundry detergent or satellite TV, but it’s the truth of the business. And yes, the literary world is just that – a business. So if you want to be successful, you have to start thinking in these terms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my brand lately, as I’ve just completed what I hope will be book two of my two-book deal with Sourcebooks. I say “what I hope will be” because the manuscript hasn’t been accepted yet. It hasn’t even been read yet. I’m really proud of it, and it’s definitely part of the brand I started for myself with book one (YA, a positive spin on a serious issue), but I can’t help but wonder/worry what will happen if my editor chooses to reject it. I’ll have to write yet another book, still under that same brand. That fear is what compelled me to start my current WIP. This new project is my answer to the “Now what?” question.

But what about when that one is complete? I’ll be faced with yet another “Now what?” And again and again. At some point, I’d love to write middle grade or a fantasy or, hell, a middle grade fantasy. But when is the right time to switch up your brand? I feel like when you’re a working author, the issue of branding is always going to be gnawing at the back of your mind, feeding into your decision of what to write next. What will your publisher want to see from you? What will your fans be expecting? Which direction is your writerly evolution taking you?

I’m pretty sure the “Now what?” question will never go away. At least, not as long as we keep writing and selling new stories. Then again, I guess that’s kind of the point, right?

Image credit: thinking-brands.blogspot.com

Jess’s Ode to Student Loans

Posted by Jessica Verdi On May - 16 - 2012

student debt 300x300 Jesss Ode to Student LoansYou can probably already tell that there’s a bit of a consensus among us at TWB about the value of the New School MFA. (In a nutshell, we all had an incredible time and loved our professors but generally credit our overwhelmingly positive experience to our smart, helpful, talented classmates rather than the “curriculum” of the school.)

So instead of being a copycat, I’ll take a different approach to my graduation month TWB post. I call it: Negative Dollars.

Negative Dollars

Dear Sallie Mae,
Wells Fargo,
Student Assistance Foundation,
And Nelnet.
You’re so kind.
You don’t know me,
But you lent me your money anyway,
So I could hang some diplomas on my wall.
I probably should look at those diplomas more, huh?
With the kind of money they cost
I could have gone to see The Book of Mormon
(in the good seats)
Four hundred times.
But it’s alright,
Because now I am educated.
A “master.”
And
(Somehow)
I have a book deal,
An agent,
An editor,
A career,
A community.
So thanks, banks.
I owe you one.

*Disclaimer: As you can probably tell, I didn’t take a single poetry class during my two years at the New School.

Image credit: fewings.ca

fry stress Spring Cleaning: Jess Needs Lists, Balance, and at Least 6 More Hours in the DayI’m crazy. Or… maybe it’s my life that’s crazy. Or maybe it’s a little bit from column A, a lot bit from column B.

Now that we’ve hit April and we only have one month left of our MFA program (eeps!), we at TWB are looking at the idea of “spring cleaning.” And boy, do I need some of that. Actually, it’s more like I need a full-time professional organizer, like one of those people on Hoarders.

Here are just a few of the things I’m currently juggling:

- Near full-time job as a writer for a pop culture website.

- Edits (and behind-the-scenes stuff like back cover copy and character and scene descriptions for the cover artists) on my first novel, which will be published by Sourcebooks Fire next year.

- Writing my current work-in-progress, which is a tricky endeavor indeed.

- Working on edits for my thesis with my thesis advisor Sarah Ketchersid.

- Contributing to my various blogging projects, including TWB!

-Working with my awesome critique group (holla Amy, Caela, Mary, & Riddhi!) each week.

- Starting a new manuscript-critiquing business with the fabulous Dhonielle Clayton.

- Other. (In this case, “other” includes such things as finding time to see my husband, friends, and family, cleaning my apartment, paying attention to my dog, and sleeping.)

stress 300x300 Spring Cleaning: Jess Needs Lists, Balance, and at Least 6 More Hours in the DayThe good news is that, though my schedule is filled to the brim, it’s filled with good stuff. I was able to quit several of my part-time and freelance jobs so that I don’t really have to do much bull**** work anymore. That was the first step in my spring (life?) cleaning process. Step two is getting organized. Writing lists, setting iPhone reminders, banishing the word “procrastination” from my life. I think I can, I think I can…

In a perfect world, I would be able to work on my own books full time. And hopefully someday that will happen. But until then, it’s going to have to be “spring cleaning” – all year round!

Futurama photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

pixel Spring Cleaning: Jess Needs Lists, Balance, and at Least 6 More Hours in the Day
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