Teen Writers Bloc

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

It’s Release Day for Jessica Verdi’s My Life After Now!

Posted by Caela Carter On April - 2 - 2013

It’s a super-wonderful-exciting day at Teen Writers Bloc—release day for Jessica Verdi‘s My Life After Now

 Its Release Day for Jessica Verdis My Life After Now!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 her life is completely different…every moment is a gift. Because now she might not have many moments left.

Jessica stared writing this gripping, startling, heart-wrenching, yet hopeful novel during our second semester at The New School and by the time we read the first few pages of her first draft, we all knew she had started something special. Turns out the folks at Sourcebooks Fire agreed with us and, at long last, now you can too! Trust me, you’ll want to get your hands on this book!

Even better, if you’re in the New York area, come and celebrate Jess’s release with us next Tuesday, April 9 at 7:00PM at powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn! You can enjoy wine, a reading, a book talk, and get a signed copy (if you can wait that long to get your hands on it!)

 Teen Author Festival: The Only Way Out is Through Panel at WORD in Brooklyn“So, serious question,” David Levithan asked the five authors who were on his panel on realistic YA fiction at WORD in Brooklyn last night. “How many of you have had sex for clothing?”

That question was inspired by our own Jessica Verdi who had just read from her debut novel, My Life After Now, about a girl who has HIV. (And, no, Jess’s character and Jess herself have not had sex for clothing either.) Jess’s book does not technically hit shelves until April 2nd, but patrons who were present last night got to buy the earliest signed copies.

Other highlights of the panel included Ellen Hopkins (Crank, Tricks, and so many more) giving us all a sneak peek (sneak listen?) of a project she’s working on for Spring 2014; Tim Decker (The Punk Ethic) discussing how his project went from graphic novel to standard form; Crissa-Jean Chappell (Narc) talking about writing across gender lines; and Amy McNamaras (Lovely, Dark and Deep) story about standing up to genre-snobbery among her poetry friends.

 Teen Author Festival: The Only Way Out is Through Panel at WORD in BrooklynIn addition to a few pages of each of these saucy, clever and intriguing books (which included our own Jessica saying “sex” about 37 times—go Jess!) listeners like me were treated to a discussion on proces. And there’s nothing I love more than hearing how other writers manage to make the magic happen!

I especially liked David’s question about how a project starts. In response, it felt like each panel member had a recipe for what makes a story.

In fact, Tim said he pictures his work-in-progress like a petri dish: he puts a few things in there together and sees how they will react. Crissa-Jean defined author as “being evil all the time” because she takes a character she likes, then tries to make him uncomfortable for hundreds of pages. That’s, of course, the only way he’ll change. Amy said that, for her, a story becomes a story when she has a character and a place she can put together. And Jess said she started with the issue before she even knew the gender or race of her character.

I’m always amazed by how many different answers a question like that can produce!

Other pearls of wisdom I’m going to take away include Crissa-Jean addressing her self-censor. She said that sometimes when she’s drafting she hears an “inner voice” telling her she’s gone “too far”—but she calls that voice a “green light.” I love that idea. Push through that inner voice and go further than even you as the writer are comfortable with to get to the truth.

Jessica said focusing on her character and her character’s own individual experience helped her to avoid sounding preachy.

Ellen Hopkins told us not to read reviews of your own writing. (But it’s so hard, Ellen!) Apparently there are some silly people out there who think all of her characters are the same, which is just, you know, ridiculous.

And David Levithan, our moderator and the mastermind behind the Teen Author Festival (and one of our valued professors from The New School) said that when you find your comfort zone as a writer, you have to run in the other direction!

There are so many more awesome book events this week as part of the Teen Author Festival! Check out the full schedule here!

Also, you can see our own Mary G. Thompson on Friday at 4:40 where she’ll be part of a panel on Alternate World vs. Imaginary world.

And, you can see me, Caela Carter, on Friday at 3:00 on a panel discussing teens and bad choices.

Jess, Mary and Caela will all be signing books at Books of Wonder on Sunday along with about 90 other authors!

 

Come to the Teen Author Festival!

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On March - 18 - 2013

Screen Shot 2013 02 25 at 11.45.23 AM 99x150 Come to the Teen Author Festival!Hello Teen Writers Bloc readers! This week is the annual Teen Author Festival, hosted by none other than our former professor/bestselling author/Scholastic super-editor David Levithan. There will be more than ninety fantastic authors participating this year, and for the first time, the festival will include three of our own: Caela Carter, Jessica Verdi, and me (Mary G. Thompson)! You can find the entire schedule of events (starting today!) at the Teen Author Festival Facebook page. You’ll want go to as many of the events as you can, because there’s going to be a whole lot of awesome!

You can find us at the following times and places:

 Come to the Teen Author Festival!Jessica Verdi (My Life After Now):

Tuesday, March 19, 7:00-8:30, Word Bookstore, 126 Franklin St., Greenpoint.

The only way out is through: Engaging truth through YA.

—also featuring Crissa Chappell, Tim Decker, Ellen Hopkins, Amy McNamara, and moderator David Levithan

Caela Carter (Me, Him, Them, and It):

Friday, March 22, 3:00-4:00, 42nd St. New York Public Library, Berger Forum, 2nd Floor

Taking a Turn: YA Characters Dealing with Bad and Unexpected Choices

—also featuring Eireann Corrigan, Alissa Grosso, Terra Elan McVoy, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Elizabeth Scott, K. M. Walton, and moderator Aaron Hartzler

 Come to the Teen Author Festival!Mary G. Thompson (Wuftoom):

Friday, March 22, 4:40-5:30, 42nd St. New York Public Library, Berger Forum, 2nd Floor

Alternate World vs. Imaginary World

—also featuring Sarah Beth Durst, Jeff Hirsch, Emmy Laybourne, Lauren Miller, E. C. Myers, Diana Peterfreund, and moderator Chris Shoemaker

All three of us will be signing at Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th St., on Sunday, March 24th! Caela will be there from 1:00-1:45, and Jess and I will be there from 3:15-4:00 (yes, Jess and I have been separated from Caela by the dreaded alphabetical order bias. Curses!).

Please check out the list of the events and support your favorite NYC authors! There are so many awesome people involved, you can’t help but find something you’ll love!

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

For a Musician, Jess Just Can’t Seem to Get the “Rhythm”

Posted by Jessica Verdi On January - 2 - 2013

20121016075255Sextuplet rhythm 300x187 For a Musician, Jess Just Cant Seem to Get the RhythmHere at Teen Writers Bloc, our question this month is “Which grammatical, spelling, or general writing error do you make most often that you wish you didn’t?”

At first, I was like, I don’t have an answer to this! I am a spelling/grammar guru! I AM INFALLIBLE!!!!! Mwa-hahaha!

And then I remembered. I can’t spell the word “rhythm.” I mean, I did it correctly just now, but that’s because I looked it up first. But in my normal life, when the internet or a dictionary is not available, I’ll go through every possible combination of “r” and “y” and “h” and “t” and “m” until I’m pulling my hair out. I tell ya, it’s incredibly frustrating. What is it about that damn word?! And it’s doubly stupid because in my pre-writer life, I was a musician. I’ve played the violin for 20 years, I studied hardcore music theory and aural comp in college, and I was trained as a classical vocalist. So why the frak can’t I spell such a simple musical word?

And what’s triply stupid is that I actually am a pretty darn good speller, if I do say so myself. I never mix up “who’s” and “whose,” I know the difference between “its” and “it’s” like the back of my hand, I cringe whenever I see “a lot” spelled as one word, and I know that there is no such word as “seperate.” I can even spell “Mister Mxyzptlk,” the vowel-less name of a Superman supervillain juuuust fine every time.

But “rhythm”? Forget it. It’s just never going to happen.

 

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

 

You Can Do A Lot In Five Months — Take It From Jess

Posted by Jessica Verdi On October - 19 - 2012

 You Can Do A Lot In Five Months    Take It From JessSo our question this month is our yearly check-in: what are we all up to now that we’ve been out of school for five months? So naturally, as I sit down to write this, the only thing going through my head is, Holy crap, has it been five months already? And not only that, but, Wait, what do you mean school’s over? Didn’t we, like, just start? The past two and a half years have been the fastest of my life, and all I want to do is yell, “SLOW THE HELL DOWN, TIME!”

Here’s a rundown of what’s been going on in my writing life since ye olde graduation day:

-I am working full time as an editor! I’m doing my dream job! (Okay, my dream job is to have no job. But being an editor comes in as a respectable second.) I’m the assistant editor for Crimson Romance, the romance novel imprint of F+W Media. So yes, this means I get to read super steamy sex scenes and look at photos of near-naked cover models all day.

-I completed my edits and copyedits for My Life After Now, submitted my book two manuscript to my editor, and am hard at work on a third contemporary YA novel (this one’s from the POV of a boy…say what?).

-I also signed on to write a book (under a pen name) for the aforementioned Crimson Romance’s new Wild and Wanton line, where we take classic novels (Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, etc.) and spice them up a whole lot (read: add sex scenes).

-A few of us at TWB have also started a weekly critique group, so it’s sorta, kinda like we’re still in school. Only with beer.

So all in all, it’s been a crazy five months for me. And none of it would have been possible without everything I learned (and all the people I met) at The New School. Now I just need to start paying back those pesky student loans…

Photo credit: constantcontact.com

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

pixel Jesss Cover Reveal for MY LIFE AFTER NOW
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