Teen Writers Bloc

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

Dear John Green: An Open Letter About Diversity from a Little Brown Librarian

Posted by On February - 19 - 2013

Dear John Green*, After watching your fireside chat with President Obama, I got inspired to write you a letter. I am a middle school librarian at Harlem Village Academies in East Harlem, New York, and an up and coming MG/YA writer represented by the lovely Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider/ICM. My library has several copies of […]

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

Posted by On January - 15 - 2013

Hi 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 […]

Kid Lit Critiques — A New Venture From Two Teen Writers Bloc Members!

Posted by On September - 7 - 2012

Announcement! Announcement! Jess Verdi and I have pooled our skills together to launch Kid Lit Critiques, a manuscript critiquing business. Check out a little more about us: Dhonielle Clayton and Jessica Verdi are two girls in New York City, living the writerly life: attending kidlit events, reading the latest books and ARCs, meeting editors and literary agents… […]

Jess’s Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW

Posted by 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: MY LIFE AFTER NOW, my contemporary YA novel, will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 1, 2013. Yes, that’s April […]

Cover Reveal: Escape from the Pipe Men!

Posted by On August - 22 - 2012

Hello, Teen Writers Bloc Readers! I’m so excited to unveil the cover for my second novel, Escape from the Pipe Men! And yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. Take that, exclamation point haters!!! The book is about a couple of kids who have grown up in an alien zoo and go on […]

 Corey Declares Her Love For the Simon Pulse FamilyWhen my agent and I went out on submission with my upcoming debut, OCD Love Story (Simon Pulse, July 2013), we didn’t really focus on comp titles. I’m not one of those writers who’s opposed to them — but it simply wasn’t part of my submission or querying process. I’d like to think my book has a funny/quirky voice accompanying its dark story line. It’s definitely a straightforward, contemporary YA, and fits in well with other Simon Pulse titles. So in my case, I think the best comps are other books my editor and house have worked on, since I think my publisher has a strong point of view, a clear place in the market, and that my work fits in nicely.

Some Simon Pulse authors I adore? Amy Reed is a writer whose work I literally can’t put down. I have read all three of her books in one sitting each. I especially adore her debut, Beautiful, which reminded me deeply of the movie Thirteen (which I once had my work compared to, so there you go). She really captures the heartbreak, depth, and complexity of being a teenage girl in a fast-paced, addictive way.

Lauren Strasnick is another one of my favorite Pulse authors. Her prose is gorgeous, and her characters are complicated. She is a brave writer, and someone I aspire to be more like.

I’ve talked about Arlaina Tibensky’s Simon Pulse novel, And the Things Fall Apart about a million times, on the blog and other blogs and basically to anyone who will talk to me. The voice in that book is truly something to aspire to — funny, smart, quirky, thoughtful, fun. It’s one of my favorite YA novels ever.

I also am a huge fan of Hannah Moksowitz’s beautiful Pulse novel, Gone, Gone, Gone. Haunting, unique, and full of the kind of confusing romantic struggles I love to read and write about, it’s another book I would be proud to see my book next to.

I could go on and on about the wonderful authors over at Simon Pulse. They inspire me, excite me, make me laugh and cry, and I couldn’t be more proud to join their little family.

Photo courtesy Simon PULSE

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Book 600x438 Stevens LovechildrenIf I had to describe my current projects as lovechildren of different YA titles, well, I’m not really sure that that would be fair to my work and the work of those poor, poor already established-and-published authors who would more-likely-than-not be offended by my comparisons. Alas, I love these types of games (and I secretly play this game all the time – not just with my work, but with other authors, musical artists and even movies), so I can’t resist.

My first second complete manuscript, How I Set Myself On Fire, is kind of a genre-crossing novel in the sense that it’s realistic, yet has certain cartoonish elements. It’s serious, yet fun and witty. It’s topical, specific, yet I think it relates to a broader concept. Vague, right? (I’m superstitious – and agent-less – so I like to keep details under wraps). Anyway, if I had to describe it as a combination of X, Y, and Z, I would have to say it has the wit, charm, and NYC flare of David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, the artistry and topical nature of Nick Burd’s The Vast Fields of Ordinary, with the lightest touch of Salinger’s Holden Caulfield in my main character.

As for the project I’m working on now, without giving too much away, I would have to say it’s like Perry Moore’s Hero meet’s Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games meets your typical superhero graphic novel.

So there you have it. My literary lovechildren.

Note: David Levithan, Nick Burd, Suzanne Collins, and the legacies of JD Salinger and Perry Moore were not harmed in the writing of this TWB post.

Cover images courtesy of Ember and Speak

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downton abbey handmaids tale 600x352 How Does Amy Describe Her New Book?When it comes to comp titles for my books, I am the worst at thinking them up. Which is why I don’t. I ask other people to do it for me.

With my current project, first, I went to Dhonielle. Then, because I was working on it so closely with her, I relied on my thesis advisor, Jill Santopolo. And now my editor, Barbara Lalicki, has come up with the final comparison: Downton Abbey meets The Handmaid’s Tale. I love it. Neither one is a YA title (Downton Abbey isn’t even a book), but I think it gives a fairly good idea of what sort of book THE JEWEL is.

Although, hopefully, my book will be something entirely different and unique, something unlike anything else out there. As writers, that’s what we’re always striving for, right?

Images courtesy of Carnival Films, Everyman’s Library

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Cow1 202x300 Mary Gets Cranky About This Month’s QuestionThis month’s question is “Where does your book fit into the kidlit world? Come up with comparable titles.”

Let’s be honest right from the beginning: I hate this question! My publisher has described Wuftoom as “Kafka’s Metamorphosis meets Suzanne Collins’s Gregor the Overlander.” I have no idea if that’s true because I haven’t had a chance to read either one of those books. I feel like I read a lot of books compared to most people, but I still don’t have time to read anywhere near the amount of books I’d need to read to be able to come up with comparable titles off the top of my head. Of course, it doesn’t help that my books tend to be a little (okay a lot) weird. Actually, it kind of bugs me that people keep mentioning Kafka in relation to Wuftoom, because I don’t like the implication that I’m somehow trying to do a Metamorphosis for children — there’s no kind of book that I dislike more than a purposeful retread of a classic, and I would never never never do that! Nope, sorry kids, you won’t be getting a Wuthering Heights and Zombies or Romeo and Juliet go to the Prom from me! I guess the reason people in the publishing world want comparisons is that they want to sell books to people who liked other books. And that’s fine. But I don’t want to read, say, another Wizard of Oz or another Harry Potter or another Hamlet. I want to read something that I haven’t read before, and that’s what I try to do with my books. I’m not saying I always succeed — after all, everything is built on something. Readers have to understand your book and identify with the characters.

So, for example, my next book, Escape from the Pipe Men! is about aliens. The aliens have spaceships and come from planets, and it’s possible to describe them using English and comparisons to things you might have seen before. But I hope that my aliens are different, and my world is different, and the challenges my kids face will be new and fresh. I hope that the book won’t be easy for anyone to classify by coming up with comparable titles on a minute’s thought. At least, I can’t do it. And truthfully, I wish people wouldn’t even try. I don’t want to know if a book I’m reading is like some other book, because if I haven’t read that other book, I can at least enjoy the first book under the illusion that it’s something new. It’s the worst to start reading a book and realize I’ve totally seen that. This book is called Nelly’s Hairy Boyfriend but it’s really just Harry Potter and Werewolves! No no no. I want to open up a book and go, “I have never seen anything like this.” When people are asked about comparable titles for one of my books, I hope they will shrug and look terribly confused. The biggest complement of all is “There’s really no comparison.” And yes, that’s a picture of a cow.

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 Why Caela Hates the Whats Your Book About? QuestionWhat is my book about?

UGH! I hate this question. It’s an essential part of a writer’s life, like annual teeth-cleanings and scrubbing the dishes, but I’d probably rather do any chore than talk about my writing.

I used to say that I refuse to talk about a project while I’m still working on it. It was a convenient excuse considering I never used to finish what I started. But now that I am preparing to have a book on the shelves, I suppose I better be ready to describe it. Still, I maintain that this is the hardest part of my life as a writer: harder than banging my head on the wall and trying to get a plot to work out, harder than coming up with that perfect first line, harder than edits, and more annoying than copy-edits. Talking about my writing just doesn’t come naturally.

But, after all that whining, I still have to do it. So, here goes: ME, HIM, THEM AND IT (which is being published by Bloomsbury and will be on shelves in February and is available for pre-order now!) is the story of the succession of impossible decisions 16-year-old Evelyn must face when pretending to be a “bad girl” results in her pregnancy. It’s the quirky teenaged-ness of Juno meets the silent tension of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

How was that?

Well, like a tetanus shot, at least it’s over.

(Oh, I guess this month’s question was to describe my WIP but I can’t do that… it’s not finished yet!)

Photo Credit: tetanusvaccine.net

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indecision.jpg 300x231 Jean Paul Thinks She Might Be IndecisiveWhat I’m currently working on kinda depends on my mood. I have a steampunk-ish idea that flutters around my brain, occupying a small space in the background that is slowly growing larger. I’m always thinking about it, but I can’t quite get a grasp on it.

I haven’t actually written anything on the steampunk-ish story, but I have been working on two other ideas. One is something I came up with a long time ago, wrote the novel, and have been revising it off and on for the past few years. It’s a fantasy/adventure story, kind of like the Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander meets any other story where two kids go off on an adventure that will change the entire world. Like I said, I’m working on it.

The story that is currently taking up most of my waking time (and some of my dreams) is an idea I came up with, wrote a few hundred pages on it, and then decided to scrap everything and start over. Don’t worry – it wasn’t as difficult to do as it sounds. When I re-read some of the chapters and found myself groaning with embarrassment every other sentence, I didn’t have a choice.

Sea Hag 184x300 Jean Paul Thinks She Might Be IndecisiveBefore the rewrite, I would have described it as the story contained within a book with a cover like The Sea Hag. A weak female character who can’t do anything except fall in love, some monstrous creatures that were bad news for everyone, weird technology that had nothing to do with the story, and a mysterious knight in black armor… my story was just like the cover of The World of Crystal Walls (but with a much better title).  I am serious.  I’d share an excerpt but I’m afraid Mr. David Drake would sue me for plagiarism.

The new version is more of a cross between Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance trilogy and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson, with a bit of The Lord of the Rings thrown in – so much better. I couldn’t find a cover to match the story and I consider that as job well done. I’m really excited about the new rewrite and it’s probably the one that will get the most attention in my workshops next semester.

But I never know what mood I’ll be in when I sit down at the computer, so I might get started on that memoir I’ve been talking about for ages.  Or maybe something new!

 

Photo courtesy Amazon.com

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starters Janes Novel Is An Exploration In Genre JumpingIf you could find my current WIP in the bookstore, which category would it fall under? When it first started out as just an idea, I thought it would be fantasy. I imagined a girl who had her memory transplanted into a new body and the issues that came with it: having to deal with her friends’ reactions and working out her own emotions about no longer having her original body.

As I started writing, my story went in its own direction. My main character turned out to be a murder victim, so it became a mystery. Then one of my character’s friends developed a love interest, so there was a hint of a romance story.

If I had to pick which books were the most similar to mine, these would be on the list:

Eva by Peter Dickinson. Eva, a twelve year old girl, dies in a car accident and her consciousness is transplanted into the body of a chimp. Ethics and animal rights play a large part in this book.

Mindscan by Robert J. Sawyer. Although this was written for adults, I felt like it still applied because it explored the idea of transferring a person’s consciousness into an android. An issue comes up of whether or not an android with a human mind has the same legal rights as a real person.

Starters by Lissa Price. Sixteen-year-old Callie’s parent are dead, so she and her younger brother are forced to live on the streets. Callie can earn money letting senior citizens rent her body and control it with their minds so they can re-live their youth. In the process, Callie becomes involved in a plot where other teens who have rented out their bodies have mysteriously disappeared.

I’m sure there are other books that have the similar theme of transferring one person’s mind into another being, If you know of any more books like these, let me know!

Photo courtesy of Random House Children’s Books

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HJNTIY Ambers Aiming High in YA ContemporaryIf I had to ‘pitch’ my new YA work-in-progress, I’d say it’s a mix between Greg Brehendt and Liz Tuccillo’s He’s Just Not That Into You, Elizabeth Scott’s Bloom and Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland.

Of course, it’s not finished yet, and even if it was this could all change during revisions. BUT I’m viewing it as in the same vein of some of the main threads in those books. My other work-in-progress is harder to describe. My goal for it, even more so than the one I first described, is to make it different from what else is out there, or at least from what I’ve seen out there for realistic young adult fiction. Maybe it’s along the same lines of Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries, with the princess bit substituted with some other amazing opportunity meant to inspire? Or… perhaps not. It’s still too early to tell.

But the more I keep working on it, the clearer it will be. For now, that’s all I got!

Photo Credit: Simon & Schuster

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if you were waiting for a sign Alysons Ready—Almost

Now that I am finishing up my (hmm) fourteenth round of edits, I am finally, almost ready to hand over my middle grade manuscript to my agent—almost.

Well, my manuscript is ready to go. The problem is that I am not. I’ve been fussing over every detail. I want my book to be as close to perfect as possible. What else is new? But even when I’ve nit-picked every single thing, I’m not sure I will be ready to let go. For one thing, it’s really scary. Once I send it off into the world, I am no longer in control. Anything could happen. This does not make me feel calm. This makes me want to pace around a lot, spend my days and nights watching the Gilmore Girls seasons one through seven, eat gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream (with chocolate sprinkles), and pull out my hair.

Luckily, I have the best writing group ever to save me from myself. Not to brag, but I love them and sometimes I don’t have a clue what I would do without them. They are brilliant writers. They give the most incredible feedback. And they make me feel like I’m not alone or the only one who is afraid to fail. Sometimes I think the most important part about critique group is being around other people who get it. Thanks to their encouragement and advice, I started a new project, and I’m really excited about it. So, when I finally find the courage to send in my manuscript, instead of being crazy and taking out my anxiety on my normally very happy life, I will have something else to obsess over. Phew!

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TWB YOYO JUNE 600x383 Riddhis Post MFA Yo YoingYo, yo what’s next?

Now that school’s out, I’m in the mood to play. This applies to my writing as well.

Between you and me, since thesis submission, I haven’t so much as opened a word document — at least not for any “creative writing” purposes (unless To Do lists count). There are many culprits at play: the wonderful weather (really hard to write when you’re out riding a bicycle), an exciting new job, moving into a new apartment, a reunion with the folks, dealing with post-graduate realizations and other life-altering decisions, one of which was to stay back in New York for work experience.

But fret not, I’m just resting my wrists. The writing yo-yo has been ‘sleeping’ but I’m going to ‘walk the dog’ pretty soon. The fine ladies at TWB and the voices in my head will make sure I do!

My summer goal is to wind up an old labor of love that I abandoned a few months ago. Fingers crossed!

Image courtesy stock.xchng

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