Teen Writers Bloc

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

Jane Gets Tense Over Tenses

Posted by Jane Moon On January - 7 - 2013

tense changing TWB 300x52 Jane Gets Tense Over TensesFor the New Year, the topic of my post
Is writing mistakes that I make the most.
There are small things that don’t bother me,
Like when I type “teh” instead of “the.”
Errors like these are a pain in the neck
But I know I can catch most of them with spell check.
If I write “form” when I really meant “from,”
I remind myself that I shouldn’t feel dumb.
Mistakes can happen and I shouldn’t be annoyed,
But there’s one problem I can’t seem to avoid.
Sometimes when I write, I tend to change tense,
From present to past, to me it makes sense.
Others see my error and they’ll point it out.
And I know they’re right, I have no doubt.
I don’t notice when I move between present and past,
When friends point it out, I am aghast.
How do I fix this? Where do I look?
I couldn’t find answers in my grammar book.
I searched online but found little support
On how to fix a problem of this sort.
So if there were any changes in tense this time
I hope you’ll forgive me since it was all in rhyme.

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

Five Months Post-MFA, Jane’s Got Her Mojo Back

Posted by Jane Moon On October - 10 - 2012

asian girl thinking of plane 242x300 Five Months Post MFA, Janes Got Her Mojo BackWhen school was over, I knew that writing without deadlines wouldn’t be easy. I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be. During my last semester, I would submit my work to my critique group every two weeks. I scheduled a date each month to send my writing to my advisor. These deadlines pushed me to write a certain amount of pages each week.

When the semester ended, I saw it as the break I needed. I told myself I would take a mental vacation from my story. Coming back from my psychological time off was hard. I had left off in the middle of my book and now I was stuck. I would try and read what I had already written to get back into the rhythm of the story, but I would be distracted by the revisions that needed to be made.

So I tried a different tactic. I knew how my book would end, so I worked on that instead. It was a great idea because I kept writing and I made progress. Although I wasn’t completely happy with the result, I knew that I was that much closer to finishing my book.

I’ve heard that when you’re done with your first draft, you should take time off to clear your mind before making any revisions. It’ll be a while until I get to that point. But for now, I’ve got my motivation back. I can’t wait until I write a post about how I finished my first book!

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

the book thief 194x300 Jane Envies Markus Zusaks Depth in Character Construction in The Book ThiefI love stories that are told from a unique point of view. The main character could have Asperger’s, like Caitlin in Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, or could be autistic like Christopher in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The narrator of the story doesn’t even have to be human. In Three Bags Full, by Leonie Swann, the story is told by a group of sheep who attempt to solve the murder of their shepherd. Or the narrator may not actually exist, like Budo in Matthew Dicks’s Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend.

When I was asked which book was the one I wish I had written, I immediately thought of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. The story is narrated by Death, who tells the tale of Liesel, who is raised by a foster family in Munich, Germany during World War II. I absolutely loved how Zusak’s writing brought out so many emotions. I felt the apprehension when Liesel stole her first book. There were sections that were so hilarious that I actually laughed out loud and parts that made me cry.

The characters in The Book Thief were amazing. They all had multiple layers to their personalities, just like real people. Liesel’s foster mother appeared to be rough and unsophisticated, but you could tell she cared for Liesel. I could immediately tell that Rudy, the boy who constantly teased Liesel, had a crush on her. Even Death was more than just a collector of souls. It felt sympathy for the people who lost their lives and the ones who had to deal with what came afterward.

I would love to be able to write like Markus Zusak. I want to give my characters the same kind of depth and I want my readers to react to my stories the way I did towards The Book Thief. I have a long way to go before I can accomplish this, but the only route to getting there is to keep practicing.

Image courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

quarantine the loners 198x300 This Summer, Janes Reading List is All About Dystopia and Diversity

Where did the summer go? It seemed like it went by really quick. Oh… that’s because I spent it reading so many great books! I went through quite a few of them, but here are the ones that stood out for me:

Every year, a list is posted naming one ugly and one pretty girl from each grade at Mount Washington High School. The List by Siobhan Vivian — a New School Writing for Children alum — is told from the perspectives of these eight girls. I loved how each girl has a different reaction to their new status and how they found out that being pretty or ugly goes further than just looks. This is definitely a great beach read.

I found very few YA books that are written from a guy’s point of view, so Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas was a great discovery. Seventeen-year-old David Thorpe’s high school has been infected by an unknown virus that kills anyone who’s not a teenager. His school has been quarantined by the government and all the students are trapped inside. Gangs have been formed based on social cliques. David wasn’t part of a group, so he and his younger brother Will are loners. The gangs have turned violent and David needs to find a way to keep Will and himself alive.

I found out about Divergent by Veronica Roth from Amazon’s suggested reading based on my browsing history. In a dystopian future, society has been separated into five factions which are expected to promote specific virtues; Abnegation for selflessness, Candor for honesty, Dauntless for bravery, Amity for peacefulness, and Erudite for intelligence. Fourteen year old Beatrice Prior discovered she not only had to be a quick learner in order to survive in her new faction, but she also needed to know how to recognize who her true friends were.

Next up on my list is The Detention Club by David Yoo. I’m really excited about this one because it’s not only written from a teenage guy’s perspective, but the protagonist is an Asian American teenage guy. If anyone has any recommendations of where I can find more books like this one, please let me know!

Photo courtesy of EgmontUSA

Jane’s Novel Is An Exploration In Genre-Jumping

Posted by Jane Moon On July - 5 - 2012

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

Jane Muses: What Can You Do With an MFA in Creative Writing?

Posted by Jane Moon On June - 7 - 2012

red notebook 300x199 Jane Muses: What Can You Do With an MFA in Creative Writing?When I was first accepted into the Creative Writing program, the first thing my mom said, “Congratulations!”

Her next sentence was, “So what can you do with an MFA in Creative writing?”

I said to her with the utmost confidence, “I’m going to write a book!” I really thought I would accomplish that goal. There were so many fantastic writers in our class and that inspired me to keep on writing.

Fast forward two years later and I’ve graduated. It’s May and I still haven’t finished a first draft. I also had the following conversation with my mom:

Mom: Congratulations! So… what do you do with an MFA in Creative Writing?
Me: I’m writing a book.

Mom: That’s great! But what are you doing for a real job?

Me: ….

I thought writing was going to be my real job. But it looks like I’m going to have to find something else until I can make it my real job. A girl’s gotta eat, right?

In the meantime, I’ve given myself a deadline to complete the first draft of my WIP by the end of June. I know it’s going to take discipline to actually sit and finish it, but I’m looking forward to the day when I can say, “I have written a book.”

Photo courtesy of www.freeimages.co.uk

Jane’s MFA Take-Away: A Thicker Skin

Posted by Jane Moon On May - 8 - 2012

boy cheering1 Janes MFA Take Away: A Thicker Skin

I can’t believe it’s almost over. How did two years go by so quickly? When I first started the program, I didn’t have any real goals in mind. I think all I was really expecting, as the thesis requirements stated, was to have “a manuscript of 50 to 70 pages of stories or other fiction or nonfiction, or a completed children’s book in a state appropriate for publication.” (I also noticed that the term “state appropriate for publication” is only specified for the Writing for Children concentration. The others are only required to have a novel or book in progress.)

Was it worth it? And if I could do it over again, would I do it differently? Some parts would be yes. I would have written more. I would have been more active in going to the weekend workshops and other writing events. But the parts I wouldn’t have changed were the people I met. Our class was filled with talented people who also became great friends. We had amazing authors and editors who taught our workshop and seminar classes. Just the awesome people I got to know made it worth it.

There are two things I would love to take with me after I graduate. The first is the connection with my classmates. Not only do I value their opinion when they comment on my work, but they’re pretty cool people to know. Of course, anyone who follows Teen Writers Bloc would already realize that! The other is having a thick skin. One thing I’ve learned from the past two years is that some comments about my writing are going to be positive and others will be pretty harsh. Don’t let the bad ones discourage you. When it comes down to it, listen to them all and weed out the ones that will benefit you the most.

So I’ll admit my thesis is not something that’s ready to be published. But working with my peer group and hearing their critiques was a huge part in helping me to improve it. I hope, someday, you’ll be able to find it on the shelves of your nearest bookstore.

Image courtesy of: Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

dozing girl with laptop Spring Cleaning: Jane Hopes to Lose That Procrastination ProblemApril means warmer weather and the temptation to go out and enjoy it. And when I’m outside, it means I’m not writing. I’ll admit that one of my worst habits is procrastination. I’ve always had good intentions when it comes to deadlines. For example, if I need to get 20 pages written in the next two weeks, I’ll tell myself, “I can write two pages a day and that means 28 pages as a result!”

Sounds like a good idea, right? Not really. A day will pass and I’ll have nothing done, but I’ll tell myself, “It’s okay. I still have 13 days and I’ll still have 26 pages.” The same thing will happen on 12 days, 11 days and 10 days.

When I have only nine days left, I’ll realize that I have a little more than two pages a day to write if I want to get those 20 pages done. But it’s still doable. Fast forward until there are only five days remaining. Now I have to write at least four pages each day. I have to come up with approximately 6,000 new words that will form into a story. That’s when the panic sets in. I’ll sit at my laptop staring at the screen trying to figure out what to write.

Sometimes I finish in time. Most times I don’t. But every time I end up feeling stressed and promising myself that I’ll never get myself into a situation like that again. Of course, it’s not a promise I keep and it happens again.

For me, the best way to break this bad habit is to just deal with it directly. My procrastination comes from my belief that I have plenty of time before my deadlines so I can slack off. My solution is to just start on my projects right away and get as much done as possible before they’re due. Like now. I’m proud to say my post for April was finished in early March. Hopefully, I’ll be able to apply the same discipline to my thesis project deadlines!

Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Women’s History Month: Jane’s Favorite Female Authors!

Posted by Jane Moon On March - 7 - 2012

westing game Womens History Month: Janes Favorite Female Authors!I had several favorite female authors when I was growing up. One was Ellen Conford, who usually wrote about pre-teens and teens going through problems that were familiar to most of us, such as first love and being bullied, and the unfamiliar, like finding out you’re the long lost princess of a small country. But no matter what the subject was, Conford’s characters always had confidence and a sense of humor.

I read The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin for our seminar class last spring, but I was already familiar with her works. When I was in the sixth grade, I discovered The Westing Game in my local library and I loved how it was a mystery book just for kids. I searched for more works written by Raskin and found similar books like The Tattooed Potato and Other Clues and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel). These last two also had mystery themes, which appealed to me.

But out of all the female authors whose books I’ve read, Judy Blume is definitely one of the most well known. Her stories, sometimes viewed as controversial, dealt with the pains of growing up. Comparing her books to some of the ones that are available now, the subject matters seem almost tame.

I can’t say I have a favorite female author now, but there are two that have definitely caught my attention. The first is Laurie Halse Anderson. My first experience with her was reading Wintergirls in David Levithan’s seminar class. Wintergirls was well written and Anderson skillfully caught the pain of her main character who was suffering from an eating disorder. I was inspired to read Speak and Catalyst. In each book, Anderson knew how to express the isolation and confusion her narrators felt without overdoing it.

The other author is Libba Bray, who came to David Levithan’s class as part of an author panel to speak to our class. She had a great sense of humor and I hoped that was apparent in her writing as well. It was. Bray had a knack for picking unusual topics for her stories and giving them a twist. Going Bovine had a 16-year-old male narrator who contracts a life-threatening disease and goes on a quest for a cure with an angel, a video-gaming dwarf and a garden gnome for his companions. I thought Bray did an excellent job writing from the point of view of a teenage boy. Beauty Queens is about a group of teenage beauty pageant contestants whose plane crash lands on a deserted island. Bray uses just enough humor to let the situation still feel serious, yet believable when the contestants find ways to use their various pageant skills to survive.

I’m sure there are so many more excellent female authors that I’ve never read. Any recommendations?

Book cover image courtesy of Penguin Group USA

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