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 […]

vampire diaries 15 600x336 Sona Charaipotra: Why I Write for Teens

Growing up in central Jersey, I was the only brown girl in my grade. The only other brown girl? My sister, who was a year younger than me. And I’d like to say we were popular, friendly, well-adjusted. Eventually we would be. But back then, it was hard. So much harder than I care to admit. It was more than everyone talking about what went down on CCD on Monday mornings, or questions about what tribe I was from or why brown people had those funny dots on their heads. Add to that the unibrows, the too-big boobs, the strict parents, the glasses I hated to wear — the endless list of molehills that seemed like mountains at the time. You see where I’m going with this.

So, like Dhonielle, I buried my nose in books. The Babysitters Club was a particular preteen addiction, but that was really just the beginning. I had stacks upon stacks upon stacks. (And they all sat in my parents garage for countless years until my dad finally sold boxes full at a quarter a pop at his annual garage sale.) My appetite for books was voracious. I’d get lost in all those different worlds. Classic Judy Blume, like Blubber and Deenie. Lusting after Stefan and Damon in the Vampire Diaries — back in the ’90s, when they originally came out! And I remember especially loving L.J. Smith’s other series back then, The Secret Circle. (Note to the CW peeps: it’s very cast-able. Nab that new blond kid from Glee and put him front and center.)

But here’s the thing. As much as I loved living in those worlds with those characters, I still didn’t see a single reflection of myself in them. And I wouldn’t — not until I got to college. Eventually, South Asian stories — American or otherwise — became the flavor of the month. And now it’s pretty common to see an Indian or Pakistani or Korean or Mexican or Chinese name on a book cover. But it’s still not so likely that you’ll see that book in the teen section. And so, countless other young brown or yellow or purple or red girls are perusing the shelves, interested and entertained, but not finding someone who looks like them. So I’ve decided that I’ll write some of those stories. Because I can. That’s why, in everything I write, you’ll always find that little brown girl — maybe not front and center. But somewhere. Perhaps in the back row, second seat from the left, hiding the fact she can’t see because she’s too embarrassed to put on her glasses.

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Jane Moon: Why I Write for Teens

Posted by On October - 15 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

question Jane Moon: Why I Write for TeensThere were many, many times when the question of “What if?” came up while I was a teenager.

“What if I asked out that guy I liked when I was 16?”

“What if I had gone to my local high school instead of one that was an hour and a half away?”

“What if I had never spoken to that girl at the bus stop?”

I know that my life went in a specific direction because I chose one “what if” over the other. Writing gives me a way to explore how things could have been different if had I chosen the other option. Maybe I would have ended up being with that guy instead of my husband. Maybe I would have been able to pay attention in class instead of falling because of my long commute. Maybe I would be a colder person and not realize when a lonely person is looking for a friend.

I think teens are always wondering the “what ifs” in their lives. I write for them to show what the alternatives are, even if it is something that’s only created in my mind. I want teenagers to know that although their lives may go in one direction, they can read and see that the possibilities of “what if” are endless.

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daria Corey Haydu: Why I Write for TeensI was a miserable teenager. Which seemed a particularly heinous destiny, since I was cute and blonde and had big boobs.

But real life high school is not the predictable journey that we were led to believe. You can still have no friends and be universally hated even if you fit the stereotype of what popular (or at least acceptable) might look like. The truth of high school and growing up (or at least my truth) didn’t look like what I had read about or seen in the movies, and when I had time to reflect on that, I felt inspired to find what is unusual about adolescence, instead of relying on old ideas of teenager-hood.

If there’s some connection between therapy and writing, I’m probably it’s poster child — trying to come to terms with a confusing and damaging adolescence by writing about it as an adult, reconnecting to the vulnerability I had then, and creating scenarios to explore the moments that shaped who I am now. My adult literature explores the same themes as my teen literature: addiction, obsession, the underbelly of human nature, morality, and love in its more complicated forms.

Also, I got a job working for an agent of teen literature and somehow that became my “niche” when I kept applying for more jobs. So the simpler answer may be that they sucked me in to their world and I never wanted to leave. Sometimes you have to just follow what life is giving you.

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Amber Hyppolite: Why I Write for Teens

Posted by On October - 13 - 20101 COMMENT

 Amber Hyppolite: Why I Write for TeensThe books that I read in middle school and high school with young protagonists such as Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, profoundly influenced how I viewed the world and my place within it. Although I’d like to believe that my life will only get better with age, I recognize that there is nothing that can compare to the sense of unbelievable potential and dread that marks one’s teenage years. When you’re a teen everything is happening for the first time, and you have a clean slate, even if it may not always seem like it. I write for teens because I appreciate the magnitude of those exciting and pivotal moments within a teen’s life. And I wish to shed some light on how one can survive even the most difficult of experiences.

Personally, I remember being bullied by my peers, having a blast at homecoming, arguing with a friend, beating the odds and winning a tough lacrosse game, crushing on a guy who didn’t know that I existed, daydreaming about my future and then the next night crying myself to sleep because I felt misunderstood by everyone—including my well-intentioned parents. There are tons of ups and downs to choose from over the course of one’s teen years. So, I suppose part of me hopes to let teenagers know they are not alone in their experiences, as well as to inspire and enlighten them as they try to figure out what exactly life is all about. I’m actually still trying to figure that out too, and so maybe my books can be a way to start a conversation that’s worth having.

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babysitters1 Jessica Verdi: Why I Write for TeensWhen I was growing up, the highlight of my week would be going to the local library with my mom and bringing home a fresh stack of books.  I loved curling up in my bedroom, getting lost in an entirely new world, meeting and falling in love with new characters, and experiencing, through the written word, things that aren’t actually possible in reality.  Teen books have the ability to captivate the imaginations of the world and ignite a love of reading in young people… and I want to be a part of that!  I can only hope to inspire young readers the way the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley series did for me and the way the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Percy Jackson series are doing today.

Book cover image courtesy of Scholastic

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 Dhonielle Clayton: Why I Write for Teens“Come into the real world,” my mother repeated, hoping her mantra would penetrate the thick existential cloud surrounding me as a young person.

I enjoyed the worlds within books more than my suburban childhood. Books were piled beneath my Strawberry Shortcake comforter, no matter how many times my mother told me to place them on my bookshelf. I used a blue caddy to tote my books with me, even into the bathroom, carefully reading them over the edge of the bathtub each night.

On family vacations to my grandmother’s Mississippi farm, I avoided the southern mosquitoes and heat by sneaking into the forbidden dining room. Sprawling across the cool, plastic-covered furniture with a stack of books, I prayed I wouldn’t get caught by my grandmother, who had already told me more than once to go outside.

I opted out of classmates’ birthday parties scheduled for Saturday afternoons in order to go with my dad to Crown bookstore and Adam’s Comic book store with my dad. I wrote letters to God, asking him/her/it to send me an alien friend who could bring me alien books to read.

Novels contained uncharted territories for me as a young reader. They were jaunts to other planets, missions embarked upon though wooden cupboards, overheard conversations between adults, mysteries to be solved, past historical worlds to be explored, alternate universes to be experienced. I felt like I’d pressed my eye against a peephole into another, more interesting dimension.

Reading gave me a vehicle to navigate my experiences as a child in an adult world. Novels were a refuge. A child-centered place where imagination is sacred; a universe where dragons, princesses and mermaids live among us; a space where one can learn to walk two moons in someone else’s shoes; a location where children, not adults save the world. It taught me how to quiet my mind to allow trees, houses, aliens, talking dogs, monsters and small people to sprout inside; to experience sympathy, empathy, anger, sadness, and joy through written words, characters and their circumstances.

Growing up in a southern black American household, I spent a lot of time being “seen and not heard,” hiding underneath my grandmother’s dining room table watching her pour yellow cornbread mix into a cast-iron skillet, hearing stories about my grandfather growing up on a farm in Mississippi, listening to my parents complaints about racism in the outside world, loud family gatherings with people sipping sun tea, playing dominoes, and arguing about politics. I collected these memories, wondering why they never showed up in the books my teachers assigned me to read. My classmates’ hands were sharp arrows pointed to the classroom sky, eager to tell my third grade teacher how their families were exactly like the one in our book. Everyone had something to share.

Except me.

Brown children didn’t venture inside wardrobes to Narnia; they weren’t destined to help save Middle Earth; they didn’t discover keys to other dimensions or travel to new planets in outer space. I wanted to be in the mainstream texts, see my face on a book cover, and hear the voice of my grandmother in a character.

I write to fill that hole, with a desire to provide all children with tangible access to their own experiences on the page. Opening these doors and creating new mental conversations between child readers and the novel will illicit the best response ever: “That character is me!”

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witchweek 198x300 Mary G. Thompson: Why I Write for TeensI never stopped reading “young adult” books. I even still read picture books! People say, “Write what you know.” I say, “Write what you love!” Let’s face it, no one really knows about monsters or aliens or time travel — at least, not yet!. No one even knows what’s going on in the minds of those kids across the lunchroom.

I love books that explore what could happen, if only. What if they still burned witches, and you found out you were a witch? (The premise of Witch Week, by one of my all-time favorite authors, Diana Wynne Jones.) What if you learned you were meant to live in a world where giant cockroaches are butlers and poets? (One of the many wonderful facets of James Kennedy’s The Order of Odd-Fish.) I’d love to go to one of these places. Sure, everything might not turn out exactly how you like it. Maybe there’s a downside to becoming a werewolf. (Find out in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver and Linger.) But hey, at least your world would be different. Until I figure out how to really make monsters and travel through space (trust me, I’m working on it!), I’ll keep reading books, and writing them. It’s the closest I can get to what I love.

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1239377905reading lo1 194x300 Having an Identity Crisis? Come to Franklin ParkSkip the shrink and come to the Franklin Park Reading Series on October 11, 2010. Empathize as JAMES HANNAHAM (God Says No), MICHELE CARLO (Fish Out of Agua), SHELLY ORIA (New York 1, Tel Aviv 0), and ALYSON GERBER (Gracie Garber Loves Goys) share stories of sexual confusion, teen angst, ethnic conflict and geographical displacement. This is one session you won’t want to miss!

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Gardening Shops in the East Village

Posted by On October - 9 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

tree 300x200 Gardening Shops in the East VillageI am a master pruner. There, I said it. I may forget my metro card at home, or leave my baby in the corridor like that girl from teen mom, but one thing I always carry with me are a small pair of shears. This is an existential link to nowhere.

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Welcome to Teen Writers Bloc

Posted by On September - 22 - 2010ADD COMMENTS

mfa1 Welcome to Teen Writers BlocWelcome!

You’ve found the blog site of the New School Creative Writing MFA Program’s Writing for Children Class of 2012. Stay tuned for more from us on writing, publishing — and of course, reading — books for children and teens.

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