Teen Writers Bloc

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

Jean-Paul Recommends The Hunger Games Because She Didn’t Hate It

Posted by JeanPaul Bass On August - 3 - 2012

Hunger Games Jean Paul Recommends The Hunger Games Because She Didnt Hate ItSometimes, I try to stay away from what’s popular because I just can’t believe the hype surrounding it. I waited until the second book came out in the Harry Potter series before reading the first one, and of course I was hooked by the opening line. I just couldn’t believe a book could be that good, that everyone who read it ended up loving it, and so I didn’t give in until I got tired of people disbelieving me when I said I hadn’t read the first book.

Then came Twilight and I couldn’t understand how a book with such bad reviews could be so popular. I wanted to know why, what was it about Bella and Edward that captivated people? I wish I could lie and say I’ve never read Twilight, but I have. And I read the sequel. But I stopped with the third book. Out of pure curiosity, I had a friend tell me how everything ended and then did a finger puppet reenactment for some other friends who hadn’t read any of the books. The reenactment was basically my right index finger intensely asking my left index finger, “Why aren’t you scared of me?” and then brooding while my left index finger floated through the scene in a selfish haze.

So when The Hunger Games exploded on the scene, I was cautious. I heard the complaints about it being a weak Battle Royale ripoff, but then I saw it rising to the top of the bestseller lists. Friends and classmates recommended it, but I didn’t want another Twilight experience, and I knew nothing could ever live up to the hype like Harry Potter did, so I just said, “yeah, okay, I’ll check it out,” knowing full well I was planning on doing nothing of the sort. The only reason I ended up reading the book is because my sister bought movie tickets and I wanted to know how I was going to be wasting two hours of my life.

I went into the book expecting the worst and came out pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t that bad. Actually, it was pretty good. I had to give Suzanne Collins props because I was only hoping I’d be able to finish the book and she had me wanting more.

I’ve read quite a few books this summer, some good, some bad, one or two awesome ones, and it’s kinda funny that I consider The Hunger Games the best book I’ve read these past few months simply because I didn’t hate it. I know Public Enemy told everyone not to believe the hype, but in this case giving a hyper-popular book a try was totally worth it.

Image courtesy of Scholastic

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

Amber’s Aiming High in YA Contemporary

Posted by Amber On July - 2 - 2012

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

For Amy, Post-MFA Means Jumping Into Life As A Writer!

Posted by Amy Ewing On June - 12 - 2012

revision 300x209 For Amy, Post MFA Means Jumping Into Life As A Writer!School is over, and before I really had a chance to process how two years could go by so quickly, I found myself facing an entirely new life. One as a writer. An actual, we-will-pay-you-for-your-writing writer.

Yes, last month my agent called me and I heard the most amazing four words an aspiring writer can hear. “We have an offer.”

Barbara Lalicki, an editor at HarperCollins, was offering me a three-book deal. I was stunned. I was speechless. Once I got over the initial shock, there was lots of laughing and crying and celebratory beverages and then more laughing, and a little more crying. How had I gotten so lucky? I couldn’t believe it! (And to be honest, sometimes I still can’t.)

Then I met with Barbara to discuss edits and receive my notes for the manuscript. There is nothing more exciting and terrifying than holding your book in your hands and flipping through pages covered in red pen. My first thought was, “Oh, God. She thinks it’s terrible. It is terrible. Why did I ever write this? Whyyyyyy?” This is generally my first reaction to critiques. Then I took a deep breath, and remembered that her job is to make the book as good as it can possibly be. Her notes were designed to help, not demean. If she didn’t like the book, she wouldn’t have bought it in the first place. So I swallowed my pride and sat down with a large cup of coffee, a pen and paper, and went through the manuscript again.

The funny thing is, once I got over the initial shock of seeing so much red pen, I found that I really enjoyed myself. I could absolutely see what Barbara thought would be best for the story, and I agreed with her. It was exhilarating!

This summer, I will be living in South Africa with my boyfriend. I had initially thought it would be like a very long vacation. Not anymore. My delivery date for this manuscript is August 1st, which is a lot closer to this side of June. So I’ll be spending most of my summer knee-deep in revision. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

And after that? Well, I sold a trilogy. So I guess I better get started on Book Two!

Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On May - 4 - 2012

9780547637242 hres 400x600 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and GiveawayHello Teen Writers Bloc readers! I’ve plugged it at every opportunity, to the point where you are probably thinking, yes, Mary, we know about the stupid book. But for realz, y’all, it’s almost here!

To celebrate the release of Wuftoom on May 8, I’m having a public book release party at the fantastic McNally Jackson Books, here in Manhattan. Please come and bring your friends, family, children, and any random people you meet. Subterranean monsters are also welcome, though if they stink up the place, we’ll charge a special cleaning fee.

  • What: Wuftoom Book Release Party
  • Where: McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St. New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 13, 2012, 4:00 p.m.
  • Details: I will be reading from the book and having a conversation with The Boneshaker and The Broken Lands author (and friend of Teen Writers Bloc!) Kate Milford. Then we will be eating fun and gross worm-themed desserts, drinking wine/soda, and generally having a good time.

If that’s not enough for you, I’m also reading THIS SUNDAY, MAY 6 at Books of Wonder along with several fantastic teen sci-fi/fantasy authors.

  • What: Teen Sci Fi/Fantasy/Dystopian/Supernatural Event with me, Paolo Bacigalupi, David MacInnis Gill, Alethea Kontis, Galaxy Craze, Kate Klimo, and Elizabeth Norris
  • Where: Books of Wonder, 18 W 18th St., New York, NY
  • When: Sunday, May 6, 2012, 1:00 p.m.
  • Details: Come meet some fabulous teen sci-fi and fantasy authors, including Hugo and Nebula award winner and National Book Award finalist Paolo Bacigalupi.

Finally, I’m running a giveaway on Goodreads from now until May 15th. Enter to win a signed copy of Wuftoom!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

12351901 Wuftoom: Book Release Events and Giveaway


by Mary G. Thompson

Giveaway ends May 15, 2012.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Cover Image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Giveaway! Wuftoom by Mary G. Thompson

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On April - 6 - 2012

9780547637242 hres 400x600 Giveaway! Wuftoom by Mary G. ThompsonToday we’re proud to announce Teen Writers Bloc’s first ever giveaway EVENT!

I just received my copies of my first novel, Wuftoom, from the UPS man, and I can’t wait to share it with the world. In fact, when I got my box of books, I was so excited about sharing it that I had to take a picture and immediately post it on Facebook. Then I had to mail off copies to my parents and my best friend. Then I had to take a copy of the book with me to peer group to show it to my awesome classmates. I still have the book in my backpack, just in case the slightest opportunity to bust it out arises. I’ll probably carry it around for the next year until my second book comes out. And then I’ll be carrying two books around everywhere. Twenty years from now, if all goes well, I’m going to be dragging around a cart.

But my friends and family aren’t the only people I want to share the book with. So … I’m giving away one brand new, signed, hardcover, hot-off-the-presses copy of WuftoomThe book won’t be officially released until May 8, so the winner of the contest will see it before it’s available in stores!

Here is the summary from the front cover:

Everyone thinks Evan is sick … Everyone thinks science will find a cure. But Evan knows he is not sick, he is transforming. Evan’s metamorphosis has him confined to his bed, constantly terrified, and completely alone. Alone, except for his visits from the Wuftoom, a wormlike creature that tells him he is becoming one of them.

Clinging to his humanity and desperate to help his overworked single mother, Evan makes a bargain with the Vitflys, the sworn enemies of the Wuftoom. But when the bargain becomes blackmail and the Vitflys prepare for war, whom can Evan trust? Is saving his humanity worth destroying an entire species, and the only family he has left?

Want to win your own, signed, hot-off-the-presses copy of Wuftoom? To enter: Leave a comment on this post, and make sure you include your email address in the appropriate field (don’t worry, we will NOT make your email address public).


*Ends April 18, 2012, 11:59 p.m. EDT.

*You must be 13 or older to participate.

*You must have a US mailing address.

*Winner will be chosen at random from those who commented and notified by email.

Photo courtesy Clarion

Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks ‘Illuminate’

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On March - 23 - 2012

illuminate 400x600 Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks IlluminateWay back in the day, when I was just starting out in journalism, I worked briefly with Aimee Agresti, who was then an editor at the since-shuttered but always fabulous Premiere magazine. So when I heard that Aimee was releasing her first novel, the hotly-anticiapated Illuminate, the first in a trilogy, I knew we had to nab her for a quick chat for TeenWritersBloc.com. Thankfully, she graciously agreed! Herewith, Aimee!

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer? 

Hi there! Thanks for having me! Before Illuminate, I was a writer firmly entrenched in the world of facts, so the leap to fiction has been a great new adventure. I majored in journalism at Northwestern and spent years writing for entertainment magazines, which was just as fun as it sounds! Most recently I was a staff writer for Us Weekly, a fabulous place full of great people. But I always dreamed of writing novels. I grew up reading everything in sight so writing Illuminate and seeing it on the shelves now has all been such a thrill!

Can you give us a quick synopsis of  Illuminate? How did you come up with the concept for the book? 

Sure! Illuminate is about a teen angel who’s forced to battle a pack of gorgeous, soul-stealing devils and ends up falling in love with one of them. But, of course, there’s so much more to it than that! Illuminate is a wonderful stew of so many things I adore. The first germ of the idea came from my love of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I thought it would be fascinating to update it and kept thinking, What would you have given your soul for when you were in high school? Then I added a few twists, some angels and devils, and, most importantly, a strong heroine. I grew up on Nancy Drew mysteries and loved Nancy’s fearlessness and confidence. I wanted my protagonist to be a girl who didn’t necessarily start out so sure of herself, but who became a force to be reckoned with by the end.

The book is set in a hotel. How did you decide on that for the setting? And you’re writing about angels and devils — did you dig into the canon on this?

I went to college in Chicago and I always knew it would be the perfect place to set a mystery. I loved its wild history — Capone, prohibition, and all those amazing tunnels beneath the city. What better place to serve as a backdrop for all sorts of sinister goings-on?

To get access to those tunnels AND to give my characters a fun place to call home, I decided to resurrect the Lexington Hotel — which is no longer standing. I liked the glamour element that came with living in a hotel. Dorian Gray is full of beauty and luxury, he lives in a pretty posh pad, so I wanted the setting to be special. I did look at old pictures of the Lexington but, since it no longer exists, I gave myself carte blanche to modernize it and make all sorts of changes. Illuminate‘s Lexington is a newly renovated version. (Capone sure didn’t have a spa when he lived there!)

As for the angels and devils: I wanted my characters to be angels because I thought learning to fly was a great metaphor for growing up. Since these are my particular angels and devils, I created some new myths and legends and history for them. I’m hoping readers come to the book ready to watch a whole new world unfold!

If I’m not mistaken, Illuminate is the first in a series. Can you talk about the challenges of planning ahead for books two, three, and so on?

I always envisioned Illuminate as the beginning of a trilogy. There are three tests these characters need to complete to earn their wings, so each book represents one of those tests. I’ve, of course, never written a series before, so I have a whole new appreciation now for all those authors who have done it so well!

There’s a lot of planning involved. I always need to map everything out, that’s just how I roll, I tend to outline like crazy before I start writing. But even so, there are certain little bits that I had planned for Book Two that went into Illuminate. And now, as I’m working on Book Two, there are certain bits that I was saving for Book Three that I can’t resist using now. Even with so much planning, you still have to let a book lead you sometimes!

What’s your writing process? What does a typical writing day look like? 

Good questions! When I’m in Total Writing Mode, I have to admit, I become a little anti-social! I tend to stay tucked away in my apartment pretty much chained to my laptop from morning until mid-afternoon and I try to stay off of email, too. At some point, to prevent from becoming a complete recluse, I’ll emerge for a coffee break. And when I need a change of scenery, I’ll head to a museum to write. I live in DC, surrounded by the Smithsonians, and I absolutely love to write in the courtyard of the Portrait Gallery.

I tend to stop working in the late afternoon/early evening, but if it’s going especially well then I’ll pick things back up again at night, which can be the most wonderful, peaceful time to write.

Of course, this is my schedule in theory. It doesn’t always go so smoothly! I’ve had to amend it a little bit while working on the sequel to Illuminate because I had a baby boy a few months ago! He calls the shots!

Aimee Agresti new website photo 333x465 214x300 Debut Author Interview: Aimee Agresti Talks IlluminateWhat has your path to publication been like? What’s been the most surprising part of the process for you? 

The most surprising part of the process has probably been how well-cared for I’ve been. My editor is absolutely fantastic and I’ve learned so much from her. My agent is actually a friend of mine and she’s been so wonderful guiding me through every step of the way. And the whole team at HMH has been tremendous — from the fabulous cover designer to the publicist, who has been such a true champion of the book. I’m a lucky girl!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

Write, write, write! The great thing about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get. I wrote so many unpublished stories before this, but I know that all of that work made me better. And I like to think that every time I sit down at my laptop, I continue to get better.

What was your favorite book when you were a teenager? What are you reading now?

The Catcher in the Rye was my all-time favorite as a teen and it still is. I still reread it all the time, I love Holden Caulfield! But I had so many favorites as a kid: Alice in WonderlandLittle Women, the entire Nancy Drew series, Roald Dahl’s The Witches, so many!

Right now, I have a towering to-be-read pile and I’m always hopelessly behind. I just took a tiny break from YA to finally, finally, finally read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. (I know, so late, forgive me!) And now I’m back to YA and just started The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg. A girl who dies of a broken heart?! Such a brilliant premise.

What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise!)?

I’m working on the sequel to Illuminate right now. It should be out next year! You can keep tabs on it at aimeeagresti.com!

Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?

I love writers supporting each other in any way or form — whether it’s championing each other’s work in the blogosphere or whether it’s actually taking a critical look at something before it’s a finished product. For me, I find it comforting to connect with folks who are sharing an experience, and, though it isn’t any formal group, I’ve been lucky to have a few individual writers I go to to compare notes on navigating the world of publishing and to talk about our work. We tend to share our writing before it’s out in the world, but after we’ve done a good amount of revising and feel it’s in pretty good shape.

When it comes to getting real, solid constructive criticism on early drafts, I turn to my trusted first reader: my sister, Karen! She’s extremely well-read, has a sharp eye, and is honest. She’ll tell me if certain things aren’t working. She’ll pinpoint what I need more or less of. She asks great questions and gives me the kinds of notes I need to hear. I listen to her, and I’m always glad that I do! Our deal is that she reads a draft, prepares her notes and then I take her out to dinner and we talk about it all. It’s a good time!

Thanks Aimee, for taking the time to chat with us! We’re so excited to check out the series! 

Cover Image courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Author Photo courtesy Aimee Agresti/Rouse Photography Group

Judy Blume Taught Corey Everything She Knows

Posted by Corey Haydu On March - 13 - 2012

6788776 L Judy Blume Taught Corey Everything She Knows

Some girls learn about the desire to kiss a boy after they see a cute one in a movie or a band or a TV show or a magazine. (Am I dating myself if I give a brief shout out to JTT in Tiger Beat?) Some girls ask their parents about their new feelings, or talk to their friends, or discover the particular chest-fluttering rush of knowledge that there is something secret and delicious about a boy’s hands on your hips and face next to yours when they are in Sex Ed or playing Truth or Dare or watching Zack kiss Kelly in one of Saved by the Bell‘s racier episodes.

But for me, it was Judy Blume.

For me, in particular, it was Deenie.

There is a scene in that still sticks with me in the vague and fuzzy way a dream would. I believe Deenie and a boy kiss and touch in the school hallway, and I believe it is at that exact moment that I realized I wanted to kiss a boy. Maybe not that day, but someday soon.

Judy Blume is the definition of a groundbreaking female author. Not only were her books unbelievably popular and long-lasting in their popularity. They were also just great. Lively, honest, fun and wise. Her writing about that moment where a girl turns from a child to an adolescent is unmatched. Those books aren’t just stories, they are reference points for my friends and I, they are bibles, they are instruction manuals, they are self-help books, they are the assurance that what you are feeling is normal, they are the bit of danger that comes from learning something new about your own impending adulthood.

And they are sweet.

Deenie has all the necessary pain and angst and confusion, but with it is Blume’s special knack for loveliness and innocence. Her books promise that discovery, sexuality, and growing up will be confusing and thrilling and dangerous and maddening and heartbreaking. But they also promise that growing up will be beautiful and small and nice. Judy Blume didn’t lie to us. She didn’t tell us it would be perfect. She admitted that sometimes it would suck. But she didn’t want to scare us either. It wouldn’t always be pretty. But sometimes, maybe even often, it would be.

Photo courtesy Bradbury Press, 1973

Writing Ethnicity: Sona Looks for the Universal in the Specific

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On February - 21 - 2012

220px Monsoon Wedding poster Writing Ethnicity: Sona Looks for the Universal in the SpecificA few years ago, when my sister Meena and I first started writing screenplays, we pondered this: do we make our protagonist a brown girl like us? Or a white girl like most of the members of some vague future audience for our films?

At first, it was a bit of a no-brainer. Did we want to actually sell a script? Why yes, we did. So we wrote about a white girl. Relatable. Fun. And still, deep down, a bit like us. Did she not suffer from frizzy, uncontrollable hair? Did she not have a bitchy boss from hell who made her life miserable? Did she not lust after the exact wrong guy? See?

But we weren’t satisfied with just that. So we made sure we put a brown character into the script, albeit in a small role. Then a funny thing happened when we were taking pitch meetings in big, bad Hollywood. When they inevitably asked what else we were working on (they always ask that, by the way), we told them about this little project I’d been developing for my thesis script at NYU, you know, the back pocket one that you’ll eventually have to make yourself because it’s so specific. It was about another floundering twenty-something (our specialty!) in the city who fell for the wrong guy, had the bitchy boss, and was essentially just a hot mess.

But this feisty chick — well, she was brown. Like us. There was something about her, though, that made her relatable to all those aforementioned potential white girls in that imaginary audience. And so that ended up being the script that everyone wanted to talk about, that everyone wanted to work with us on. It didn’t hurt, also, that Bend It Like Beckham was a surprise hit, and Monsoon Wedding had done well right before that. But of course, by the time we’d worked out all the kinks with our would-be producers, another flick with subcontinental flavor had TANKED, and so we lost our shot.

Writing fiction has been an interesting journey for me in this regard, especially when compared to the previously ethnically barren landscape of Hollywood. (Now, there’s a requisite brown sidekick on every hit sitcom or drama. I’m not kidding. I could make a whole slideshow full. Maybe I will, in fact.) (Anyway, I digress.) Given the healthy interest in South Asian Diaspora fiction the past decade, I didn’t feel nearly as intimidated writing an ethnic character as I had in the past. There’s room in publishing for brown folks like me, at least to a certain degree — and in a certain market. (Mostly literary fiction.) But! And you knew there was a but!

There are still some stories that I want to write that don’t really have anything at all to do with being a brown girl. Case in point? My first YA project, which is about as high concept as they come. If I made one of the two protagonists an Indian girl, it would leave readers scratching their heads. Why did the author make that choice? What does it bring to the text? In that novel, it really wouldn’t bring a whole lot to the text. But, as always, I want to represent. So I did put an Indian girl into the book — in a bit of an unexpected way. And there’s a black character in it, too, but not just to make it uber-diverse. It’s in a way that makes sense for the story and the character. The book isn’t about race, really. But the diversity adds a layer to the text. It works in the novel without overtaking the novel.

My second work-in-progress — my thesis project — is a whole ‘nother story. Ethnic identity is one of the key components in this book. It has a flavor to it, if you will. One of the biggest challenges I’m facing in working on my thesis project is that I’m writing three narrators — and they’re all brown girls, all from New Jersey, all Upper Middle class. All too easily, these three voices could meld together and sound the same, given their shared history and ethnicity, their shared community. But you see, that’s where the other components of storytelling come into play here. These are three very different characters — each has a different want, a different way of achieving it or expressing it, a different take on the world. Or at least I hope they will. The key for me in telling this story is to not just make them three brown girls. It’s the universality of the situations they face — the heart of the novel is about the implosion of a friendship, something that’s relatable to most readers. The setting and culture is specific — and therefore, I’m hoping, interesting in its own right — but the conflict is universal, graspable by a wider audience. Essentially, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not just writing a book about brown girls for brown girls, but rather a book about these girls, who happen to be brown, but they’re also very much just…girls.

That’s kind of how I view writing ethnicity. Do I always write what I know? Not exactly. But there’s usually some intrinsic part of the character that I can relate to, something that makes the character universal in some way. The angst of the character, their hovering mother, their bond with a sibling, the way they tie their shoes or hate their job or eat breakfast for dinner. My characters tend to be human, after all. (No sci-fi here.) With all my writing, it seems, I’m trying to tell an everygirl story in a specific and interesting way. Kind of like with that script that was a hot property for ten Hollywood seconds.

And that script, by the way? The story’s still in my back pocket. Maybe you’ll read it one day — in novel form.

Photo Courtesy Mirabai Films

Amy Wants Her Multi-Cultural Bent to Be Crystal Clear

Posted by Amy Ewing On February - 14 - 2012

skin colors 711079 sw1 300x225 Amy Wants Her Multi Cultural Bent to Be Crystal ClearIt is the sad truth that, unless a character is very specifically described otherwise, the majority of readers will assume he or she is white. It’s our default setting. And sometimes, even when a character’s ethnicity is described, we can skip over it, creating our own image. I remember when the cast list for The Hunger Games was released — I immediately called up Jess and asked, “Rue is black? I always pictured her as blond.” To which Jess replied, “I thought she was a redhead.” We both dived into our copies of the book and found that Rue is described as having “satiny brown skin.” Suzanne Collins couldn’t have made it clearer, and still, Jess and I came up with two very distinct, and incorrect, images of her.

It’s sometimes difficult, in writing fantasy, to distinguish races and ethnicities —and often, I’m simply making up my own. My current work-in-progress takes place in an unspecified city in an unspecified place. I have to find other ways to describe a character who, say, I envision as Asian, because Asia doesn’t exist in this world. I want to give the reader a very clear picture of the person I can see in my head, because it’s important to me that this city be multicultural when culture has blended together — skin color has no bearing on a person’s status in this world. I’m not always successful; there’s a lot of trial and error. When I ask one of my friends, “Did you get that the Duke is supposed to look Indian?” and get a, “Oh, I thought he was white,” then I have to go back and see how I can make the character’s identity clearer. It’s a tricky line to walk but a necessary one — because who wants to read about a world where everyone looks the same?

pixel Amy Wants Her Multi Cultural Bent to Be Crystal Clear

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