Teen Writers Bloc

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

Archive for the ‘Books We Love’ Category

Wuftoom Cover Art Revealed!

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On September - 5 - 2011

Wuftoom FinalSketch 398x600 Wuftoom Cover Art Revealed!I am soooo excited to reveal the cover art for my first novel, Wuftoom! I could not be happier with the way it came out — it perfectly captures the tone of the book while still leaving the look of the characters up to the reader’s imagination. Every author has heard horror stories about someone whose book cover was nothing like what they wanted, but I’m happy to say that the instant I saw this cover, I said, “Yes!”

This book started out four years ago as a picture that popped into my mind of a boy sitting in his dark bedroom, his body covered with and contorted by membranes. As he prepared to go to sleep, a creature slid toward him across the floor. I wrote a couple pages, and then I scribbled a one-page outline on a piece of notebook paper. At that point, I thought the story would be about 100 pages, just a novella that I had to get out of my system before going on to something else. But Evan soon took on a life of his own. Evan and his mother, the Wufoom, the Vitflys, and the other dark creatures all became real to me. Not real like my own mother (I’m not crazy!), but real like all the characters in literature I’ve discovered and loved. All I can hope is that very soon, they’ll become real for readers, too.

So far, the journey from manuscript to publication has been nothing but fantastic, thanks to the great people at Clarion, especially my editor Daniel Nayeri, my agent Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency, and all my supportive family and friends, especially the folks here at Teen Writers Bloc!

The book will be released on May 8, 2012. But there’s no need to wait. It’s already available for pre-order at Amazon and McNally Jackson!

You can help support my career by becoming a fan at Facebook and Goodreads or by following me on Twitter.

Thanks for everyone’s support, and watch this space for more updates!

Jane’s Summer Was Spent Reading, Not Writing

Posted by Jane Moon On August - 24 - 2011

bqcover1 Janes Summer Was Spent Reading, Not WritingI thought that once I quit my day job, it would be easy to just sit and spend all my time writing. I expected to sit in front of my laptop every day and produce a completed novel before the end of summer. I was wrong. I’m disappointed to say I’ve made little progress on my story. But one good thing that came out of this is that the time I should have spent writing was used for reading some great books!

Two of my favorites are:

Bumped by Megan McCafferty. Melody and Harmony meet for the first time at the age of sixteen. They live in a society where a virus renders anyone over the age of 18 infertile, so teenagers who can get pregnant are a hot commodity. Melody is one of those hot commodities and has signed a lucrative contract with a couple to have their baby. Harmony, however, was raised in a community that taught to believe that sex and children should come after marriage. A result of mistaken identities have the twins questioning if what they were taught is actually what they believe.

I thought Megan McCafferty did a great job of showing two different perspectives as she alternated the chapters between Melody and Harmony. I also loved the twist McCafferty made by taking an issue from current times, teen pregnancy, and turning it into a situation that could help maintain the human population,

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. A plane filled with contestants for the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant crash lands on a deserted island. How will they survive? Will they be able to keep their hair frizz-free until help arrives? Will they be found in time to compete in the pageant?

Libba Bray did a fantastic job weaving suspense and humor (as well as advertisements from the Corporation, the official sponsors of the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant) into a story that is definitely not the female version of Lord of the Flies.

On a fun note, one of our former workshop teachers sent out an announcement for MFA students to be photographed for the cover of Poets & Writers magazine. I decided to go to the photo shoot and will appear with 20 other MFA students in the September/October issue, which will focus on MFA programs. There’s also going to be a slideshow on www.pw.org, where each student gives a brief account about their search for the right MFA program. The issue will be come out on August 15, so be sure to look for me!

Photo courtesy of Scholastic

The Sequel Has Arrived: Christine Johnson’s NOCTURE!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On August - 23 - 2011

 The Sequel Has Arrived: Christine Johnsons NOCTURE!I am peeking my head out of the sand to scream that a highly anticipated sequel was released today: Christine Johnson’s NOCTURNE.

This book picks up after the wonderful CLAIRE DE LUNE, dropping us back into Claire’s story. For those of you who haven’t read the first one, run to your nearest independent bookstore and grab it. Here’s a quick synopsis, courtesy of our favorite friends at Amazon.com:

“Torn between two destinies…

Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday. Her pool party is a big success, and her crush keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she’s the only girl there. But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy: She’s a werewolf.

As Claire is initiated into the pack of female werewolves, she finds her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart. Burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, she will be forced to make a choice that will change her life forever. . . .”

If I had to pick a paranormal creature to be transformed into it would be a werewolf above all others. I’m not interested in sucking people’s blood, being a tricksy fairy, or a brooding and depressed fallen angel (and I can’t comment on being a shape-shifter). Out of them all, it would most definitely be a werewolf…and, more specifically, a wolf as a part of Christine Johnson’s female-centric mythos in her CLAIRE DE LUNE books.

So get ready to continue the journey in the sequel, NOCTURE. Again, our friends at Amazon synthesize the book well: “Claire couldn’t be happier that her life has finally settled down. She’s been fully initiated into her family’s pack of female werewolves, her best friend Emily is back in town, and she’s finally allowed to be with Matthew, the human love of her life. But when a new girl arrives, everything starts to unravel. Not only is the intruder getting close to Claire’s best friend and boyfriend, but she may also know more about Claire than she’s letting on. If Claire’s secret gets out it breaks all the rules of the pack, and the consequences may be more than Claire can handle….

Stay tuned for a forthcoming interview with the wonderful writer!

Photo Credit: Simon Pulse

Books With Bang: Norma Klein Shocked Sona At 14

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On July - 27 - 2011

41C5ZD5WKKL. SL500 AA300  Books With Bang: Norma Klein Shocked Sona At 14So I’m going old school with this one. When I was 14, perusing the shelves of the local Barnes & Noble, as I often did, I came across a teen tome titled “Just Friends,” by Norma Klein.

At that point (and actually, still to this day), I had never read a Klein book besides “Mom, The Wolf Man and Me.” A lot of her canon was way before my time. So I didn’t know that her YA list frequently courted controversy — and, of course, often made the banned books list. A young 14-year-old in the days pre-Internet-everything, I was blissfully unaware.

And this book, “Just Friends,” looked innocent enough. It was about Isabel and Stuart, two smart teenagers who grew up together as pals — and, as usual, had a bit of trouble navigating their relationship once hormones and teen angst kicked in. Isabel had feelings for Stuart, and Stuart was going out with their other friend, Ketti. So, to get on with her life, Isabel hooked up with the gawky, skinny, unappealing but decidedly available-and-interested Gregory. And it’s with him that she experiences some of those awkward teen firsts.

And that was the shocking part. Unlike other teen fare I’d read, Norma Klein wasn’t afraid to go there, the body parts, the confusion, the humiliation. Klein drew her characters in 3D, from the teens facing the trauma of growing up and apart to the adults dealing with their own version of adolescent angst. It was a vivid, satisfying and frequently shocking read. And it made me want to write.

In fact, I do recall some horribly derivative dribble I scribbled back in the day, at all of 14, which may be officially dubbed my first attempt at fiction. I likely have it stashed in one of my high school journals, never to be seen by prying eyes. There it will remain. But when I think of books with bang, Klein’s books, as little as I’ve read of it, surely make the list. In fact, maybe I’ll go back into teen fiction history and hunt down some more of her titles this summer, to see what I missed.

Books with Bang: Amber looks at books with purpose

Posted by Amber On July - 20 - 2011

ThanThe Bluest Eye Books with Bang: Amber looks at books with purposeks to my 11th grade Honors English teacher I was introduced to two classic literary works that sparked a certain hunger within me to try to write with a purpose, i.e with something meaningful to say, even in the smallest sense. The two works I’m referring to are The Bluest Eye and Native Son, by Toni Morrison and Richard Wright respectively. These works are political and poignant, purposeful and dour, with strong narratives and emotionally-charged plots and language. They describe horrible and discriminatory acts, cast their protagonists and our society in an unsavory light, and yet they are written in such a way that you cannot tear your eyes away from the page. And with The Bluest Eye especially, as with all of Morrison’s novels, each piece of the story—from the plot to the structure and the language used—matters.

Admittedly, these works scared me when I first read them because they were both devastating and disturbing beyond belief. Pecola is a little black girl who is so unloved and mistreated by those around her, so abused by her circumstances, that she is driven to the point of insanity.  And Bigger Thomas commits a heinous and unforgivable crime, which Wright uses to get the reader’s attention so that he can highlight the plight of the black man in 1930s America. These books are haunting, but worth reading at least once. Up until that point, I’d never read works with such social relevance before. If I hadn’t read such works when I did, who knows if I would appreciate books like The Awakening, Caucasia, and The Girl Who Fell From The Sky as much as I do now? Books that mean something more than an escape, books that push you to think and doubt and inquire, those are books with bang.

Then again, Native Son was published in 1940, and The Bluest Eye was published in 1970.  Do you think that today, being political, as in dissecting, criticizing and questioning specific aspects of  society and social behavior in a realistic narrative, a YA narrative even, is as acceptable as it used to be? Maybe this isn’t even an issue, if you write such a work, correctly.


Photo Credit: Random House

Books With Bang: For Steven, It’s All About the Anatomy of a Sneeze!

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On July - 12 - 2011

kachoo 216x300 Books With Bang: For Steven, Its All About the Anatomy of a Sneeze!One of the greatest lessons I ever learned came courtesy of Dr. Seuss.

When I was a wee little lad, the book that had the biggest bang for me was Dr. Seuss’ Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! Essentially, the book is about a little bug who sneezes, and because of its sneeze, a seed drops on a worms head and the worm gets mad and kicks a tree from which a coconut drops and hits a turtle and so on a so forth, each setting off a wild chain events that causes a city to erupt into chaos. “That started something they’ll never forget. And as a far as I know it is going on yet. And that’s how it happened. Believe me. It’s true. Because…just because…a small bug went KA-CHOO!”

This was my introduction to the idea of a ripple effect. Because of one action, no matter how small, inconsequential or unintentional, there’s always a reaction. Whenever something happens in my life or around me, I always think of the original action that caused that event. I trace back the ripples to the source and analyze it. I guess that’s what makes me a writer.

Applying this concept and philosophy to my own writing has greatly benefitted me. Before I start to write an important scene, I tend to map out in my head how every one of the characters will react. I envision their stories playing out and I think about how each one is affected. I spend a lot of time doing this, and in my head I always envision a pond and throwing a rock into the water and watching the ripples. It’s important to think about:

A)   How strong the ripples are.

B)   How far they stretch.

C)   How big the pool is. Do the ripples keep rebounding and creating waves? Or do they ebb and stop flow? How long does it take until all is calm again? What will everything look like in the aftermath.

And all of this came from a little bug who sneezed. The ripple effect from that I Can Read Dr. Seuss book continues to affect me today. I look at the back of my worn-out copy, where I scribbled my name, and think about how far I’ve come and how much I think about that little bug on a day-to-day basis. And it that sense, I guess it’s had the biggest bang or impact in my life.

part time indian Books With Bang: Caela Gets Fired Up About Sherman Alexies The Absolutely True Diary of A Part time IndianThe book has made the most bangs and sirens and fireworks and yelps and screams and general noise crash around my brain was definitely Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I am a huge fan of stories — or actual situations — in which kids from totally different backgrounds are forced to face each other’s culture head on.

Junior, Alexie’s principal character, finds the high school on his Indian Reservation lacking. He yearns to learn more than he can there, and at the urging of one of his white teachers, he goes after his education. This comes with consequences. He has to go to an all white school very far away from the reservation. Sometimes he has to hitchhike or even walk to get there depending on who in his family is around, is sober, and has gas in his car. But the logistical problems Junior faces are tiny compared to the cultural ones.  He finds it difficult at first to deal with the bullies at school — that is, until, in one of the most honest and “bang” moments in the book, Junior punches the white boy who is three times his size.

But at the heart of this book is the loss of Junior’s friendship with Rowdy. The Reservation does not adjust well to Junior’s new ambitions and when Rowdy refuses to go with Junior to the new high school, Junior realizes he is leaving his best buddy behind.

Alexie beautifully sets Junior’s story parallel to both the white bully who cannot and will not understand Junior’s struggles, and to Rowdy who cannot and will not try to escape them. There is a genuine humanity, depth and “boy-ness” to each of these characters that sends them screaming into your brain. It is an absolute must-read.

Books With Bang: Mary Recommends Battle Royale

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On July - 8 - 2011

battle royale Books With Bang: Mary Recommends Battle RoyaleWhen I first heard about The Hunger Games, I thought, hmm, that’s been done! Of course, I ended up reading the trilogy and finding that The Hunger Games took its own fantastic approach to the concept. Still, if you like the idea of kids forced to kill each other at the whim of an oppressive future government, you’d be missing something if you missed this book!

In Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, first published in 1999, the oppressive government is in a future Japan, where each year, a junior high school class is picked by lottery to be taken to an island, where they’re each given a weapon — some more effective than others — and forced to kill each other until one kid remains. The author begins each chapter by telling us how many kids are left, and the writing is sparse and brutal. We mainly follow a single hero, but we learn about a wide variety of characters, from cold-blooded future mobsters to soft-hearted teens experiencing first love. How will the different personalities in the class deal with their situation? Who will be ruthless and who will band together to escape?

If you’re not not faint-hearted and can handle a little blood with your bedtime reading, pick this up!

Cover Image courtesy VIZ Media LLC

Sona Remembers Those Lazy Summer (Reading) Days

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On June - 21 - 2011

GrandPlan Cover large.img assist custom 245x374 196x300 Sona Remembers Those Lazy Summer (Reading) DaysOnce upon a time, long ago and not so far away, I lived on this magical street called Library Place. And yes, it had an actual library on one end of it.

I was about eight, and my parents (don’t call DYFUS!) used to let me and my sister (Meena, a year-and-a-half younger) walk down the block by ourselves and idle the hours away at the library, which back then was my favorite place to be. Summer was particularly fun, because without the weight of school and required reading on our slim shoulders, we could really indulge in those stacks of super-exciting reads of our own choosing.

I remember at the time that this particular library, the one on Library Place, had all these summer reading contests to motivate kids to read as many they could through that three-month break — with the prizes being a free book, a personal pie at Pizza Hut, or even just the simple gold star. I always loved having that record of all those books I devoured over the course of the summer, piles of Baby-Sitters Club monthlies that had built up during the school year, Judy Blume’s Fudge series, The Secret Garden, Bridge to Terabithia, Anne of Green Gables. (Yes, I know, I’m obsessed. But they were so good!)

Sadly, after third grade, we moved away from the magical Library Place, and while we still spent many summer hours at the library in our new town, it was never quite the same.

Recently, though, I’ve rediscovered my passion for the library, in particular the stately, long-standing Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library, which sits primly on Sixth Ave., not far from school. I spend hours before or after class perusing my options (and when I’m home, downloading eBooks and audiobooks from NYPL.org), and have managed to build up a fun summer reading list for myself. Here are my picks:

Go the F**k to Sleep, by Adam Mansbach
With his first “kids’ book,” novelist and poet Mansbach serves up a deliciously wicked take on the picture book, complete with lovely kid-friendly illustrations and a rhyming lyrical voice. Your little one will never be the wiser, but this sure will make that bedtime story a hell of a lot more fun.

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami
Okay, so I’ll admit it: I haven’t actually read this yet. But boy were Dhonielle and I excited to see it when we came across it in Barnes & Noble the other day. And it’s at the top of my kid lit list. In the book, Bollywood-obsessed Dini, 11, is not happy about her family’s move from Tacoma Park, MD, to sleepy Swapnagiri, India. But maybe it will all be worth it if she can meet her favorite matinee idol, Dolly Singh.

How I Saved My Father’s Life (And Ruined Everything Else), by Ann Hood
In this middle grade tome by the author of The Knitting Circle and The Red Thread, young miracle-worker (at least that’s what she thinks) Madeline Vandemeer deals with divorce and dashed hopes — but can she keep the faith? A fun, flavorful read for middle-graders and grown-ups alike.

We’ll Always Have Summer, Jenny Han
The final installment in New School alum Jenny Han‘s delicious Summer series, book three sees beautiful Belly finally having to choose between her childhood pals Conrad and Jeremiah. If you haven’t read the first two, definitely start from the beginning — but all three will fit very nicely into your summer beach bag.

The Art of Forgetting, by Camille Noe Pagan
When her best friend Julia suffers from a brain injury, magazine editor Marissa learns how fragile the ties that bind can be. Fellow freelance writer Pagan knows of what she writes: a magazine writer who focuses on health and nutrition, she was inspired to write the story while researching an article on brain injuries. But science aside, Pagan deftly touches on the nerve-filled center of a friendship, loved and lost.

Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On June - 17 - 2011

 Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami YodaMy good friend Kate Milford raved about the straight-forward brilliance of a MG novel titled The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger. After she read this book, she came up with a fabulous summer writing challenge for our critique group: for us to attempt to write something clean, economical, and straightforwardly brilliant like this book.I kept passing it by in the bookstore and finally decided to pick it up at the library, so I could get started on this summer project.

My father says I got my love for science fiction/fantasy while I was in the womb. The day before I was born on May 26th, 1983, my father dragged my mother to stand in line on opening night to see Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi with his fingers crossed that her water wouldn’t break. And like a good daughter and future nerd, I stayed put and her water broke after they got home from seeing the movie. Strangely, I’ve always had a fondness for all things related to Star Wars and space operas. So when I saw the title and the little green and brown origami Yoda on the cover I was immediately hooked.

And the text did not disappoint because it is a case file and told from several different points of view. Tommy is investigating the weird/troublemaker kid Dwight’s origami Yoda, who seems to be giving magical advice to help kids solve their middle school issues and conundrums. Each kid involved in the investigation writes a chapter detailing their encounters with the mysterious and mystical origami Yoda, detailing the advice they received and how it helped them solve their particular issue.

 Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami YodaI absolutely loved the case file format and how we got to read things from other characters’ POVs, and each section felt so different than the others. The voices were wonderfully differentiated. Surprisingly, there was no physical description of each character (aside from the fact that one girl Sara wore hearing aides), and I found myself okay with it. As my fellow Teen Writers Bloc members will attest to, I am kinda of a nag when it comes to physical description. I want to be rooted in the way someone looks, even if it’s just one quirk. But this book used little doodles at the top of each chapter to show what Tommy, Rhondella, Kellen, Quavando, Sara, Harvey etc look like. The narrative didn’t have the space to go into physical details about each person, but the characters were developed through the way they relay their encounter with origami Yoda.

This book is awesome! I am inspired by  the structure and humor. Also, it was edited and published by our Middle Grade Lit professor Susan van Metre, editor extraordinaire at Abrams.

Check it out! I have already pre-ordered the next book Darth Paper Strikes Back.

Photo courtesy of Amulet Books and Anthony T.

pixel Book Review: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

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