Teen Writers Bloc

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

Alyson’s Really into Fresh Starts

Posted by Alyson Gerber On October - 31 - 2012

2302950648 7399b32c8e Alysons Really into Fresh Starts

I’ve written a lot on TWB about how much I hate change. You might remember how excited I was for second semester last year. I only threw a few temper tantrums.

Well, over the past five months, I’ve changed almost everything about my life—my apartment, job, and book. Honestly, it was really scary. I mean, nothing was that wrong. My Village apartment was nice and big by New York standards. My job was—a good learning experience. The MG novel, I was working on could have been reworked (and I probably will go back to it eventually).

But it turns out, I was totally wrong about the whole not being open to change thing. Really—I’ve never been more wrong about anything, ever. Change is awesome. Exhibit A. My new apartment has two floors. That’s right. I am currently living my personal New York dream. I can officially say, “Hold on one second, I just need to run downstairs (or upstairs) to grab (insert anything awesome).” Exhibit B. My new job, where I’m in charge of digital assets (websites, blogs, social media, etc.) for a college, is so fulfilling and exciting. I love it! In case that enough, I work four-days-a-week, which leaves a lot more time for writing and running up and down stairs. Exhibit C. My new book—it’s all heart. Thinking about it and workshopping it with my amazing MFA-ers makes me smile.

So, I’m really into fresh starts. Bring on the change!


Steven: Oh, The Books I Wish I Could Write

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On September - 14 - 2012

love is the higher law Steven: Oh, The Books I Wish I Could WriteWhen I think about the books I wish I had written, it’s not so much about the ONE book that I kick myself for not having written. Too often, I love a book because of all the different elements, but there’s always something I would’ve done differently. Not that I’m saying JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye isn’t perfect, or David Levithan’s Love is the Higher Law doesn’t inspire the pants off me, because it is and it does, respectively. What I’m saying is that as much as I admire these books and wish that my name was on the front covers, it doesn’t mean that I truly wish I had written these books.

For one, wanting to have written Catcher in the Rye is a HUGE idea. I mean, it was so overwhelming for Salinger that he retreated and became a recluse. And I can’t say that I blamed him. Where do you go after having written one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and hated books of all time? With that being said, Holden Caulfield seems to creep into my head every single time I write a new character. He’s so much a part of my psyche that he can’t help but assert his character when I write.

The same can be said for Levithan’s Love is the Higher Law. He captures three perfectly distinct voices and personalities so well that it makes me hate him. I long to be able to what he did, write the same story through different eyes and voices. Do I wish I had written that book? I mean, I would lie if I said “no” because, well, as an aspiring writer I would kill to be published. But Love is the Higher Law is so perfectly David Levithan that I could jealous all I want; I’ll never write like him, with the same fluidity and knack for making words sound less like words and more like the most epic love songs…

Sometimes I sit and daydream about body-swapping with JK Rowling. What would it be like to be in her head? What would it have been like to put pen to paper and watch as Harry Potter evolved from lead scratchings to flesh-and-bone hero? Not to mention her ability to build an entire world that lives alongside our own and make it seem 1,000% plausible! And I won’t lie, what would it be like to have her billions? Would I roll around naked in a giant Gringott-sized vault? Absolutely. But I digress…As much as I wish I could’ve written Harry Potter, my mind just wouldn’t have been to do Potter as much justice as Rowling clearly did.

What I’m trying to say is that all of these books influenced me hugely. All of them are like the books that I wish I could write because they have inspired me tremendously. Their voices linger in my head, their stories play out in my imagination, and their words wake me up every day and whisper, “write, write, write…”

P.S. Happy Birthday to me! I’m 26 and unpublished. Holler.

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

Debut Author Interview: Erin Jade Lange Talks Butter

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On September - 5 - 2012

butter cmyk 395x600 Debut Author Interview: Erin Jade Lange Talks ButterThis week we’re chatting with first time author Erin Jade Lange, who parlayed her work in TV news into an edgy, unexpected YA read. Butter is the story of an obese, tortured high schooler who decides to eat himself to death — and share it with the world via the Internet. In the process, he earns fame and popularity, which makes him not want to do it anymore. But if he doesn’t do it, well, you see his dilemma. A gritty, disturbing and ultimately satisfying read, the character came to Lange in a flash of inspiration — and she worked feverishly to get his story told. We caught up with the journalist-turned-author to chat about her process, creating the universal in the specific, and why sometimes is better not to know what you’re getting yourself into.

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

Before I became a writer, I…um…wrote. Ha! That is to say, I am a journalist, so I write facts all day long. I’ve always loved working with words, so I suppose it was inevitable that I would find two careers that allow me to do what I love. I am still working in TV news, but since that involves as much writing as being an author, I guess it’s safe to say I write full-time.

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

Butter is about an obese teenager at the end of his rope. He creates a website and invites people to watch him eat himself to death live on the Internet. As the clock counts down to his last meal, he is suddenly popular at school, and he no longer wants to go through with it. But if he doesn’t, he could lose his new “friends.” The book is about his choice.

Butter’s story came to me in one of those flash-of-inspiration moments, but that flash was probably the culmination of years of writing news stories about childhood obesity, teen suicide and internet bullying. I see these stories weekly, if not daily, at work — and the reality is often so much worse than the fiction.

The character is obviously quite different from you. How did you approach this? Did it come naturally, or was there a heavy process to creating character here?

He’s different on the surface. I’m obviously not a 423-pound teenage boy. But I think his experience is universal. Substitute “too fat” with “too thin” or “too short” or “too poor” or just about any other quality that might make someone a target in their teen years, and I think Butter’s ride isn’t that different from anyone else’s.

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

My process is probably not typical. I do NOT write every day. If I get an idea, I work on it obsessively for weeks or months — putting off everything else, like chores or errands or time with friends — until it’s done. Then I give myself time off — again, weeks or months — before I start writing again.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, but I think it’s safe to say my writing is influenced by working in TV news. My next book, for example, isn’t quite as “ripped-from-the-headlines” as Butter, but it does take place in a depressed economy, which I’m sure is due to how much economic news I’ve been writing in the last few years.

What has your path to publication been like? What’s been the most surprising part of the writing/publishing process for you? 

I came up from the slush pile. Thanks to help from peers at AbsoluteWrite.com, I had a pretty decent query, so I got requests from agents right away. But the book wasn’t ready, and most agents responded with feedback and an invitation to revise and resubmit. At that point, I found a great crit partner who helped me polish the manuscript, and one of the agents who invited me to resubmit took me on! The most surprising part was how quickly she sold the book. I was very fortunate to have a short submission process. I can’t believe it’s been two YEARS since that moment, because it suddenly feels like time has just flown by.

BioPic 200x300 Debut Author Interview: Erin Jade Lange Talks ButterWhat’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

One of the best bits of advice I’ve heard is the same one I would pass on to other writers: FORGET THE RULES.

When I wrote Butter, I hadn’t heard yet that contemporary boy books were a tough sell or that swearing could make your book harder to get into schools or that any form of a prologue would make people roll their eyes. I just wrote what I wanted to write, and it worked out. The rules are generally good guidelines, but don’t let them stifle your creativity. The best book you can write is the one you WANT to write — not the one you think will get you published.

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

Charlotte’s Web was my first “favorite” book as a kid. I grew up with the Sweet Valley Twins and R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike, but if I had to pick one book that really stuck with me as a teenager, it would be Judy Blume’s Blubber.

I recently finished Push, by Sapphire — such a painful but important novel. And I just started Struck, by Jennifer Bosworth.

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

I just turned in my first round of revisions for the next book, and I suspect more edits are on the way. That novel comes out next year, and I’m also getting married in a year, so 2013 is shaping up to be as exciting as 2012!

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

I am a firm believer that writers need critique partners, but for me, too many opinions can muddy the waters. I prefer two or three solid crit partners to a big group. However, when it comes to support and advice, the more voices the better, so I encourage writers to get involved in online writing communities. I’ve met so many amazing people that way, and I feel very fortunate to be part of the vast internet tribe of writers.

Photo courtesy Bloomsbury

Sona’s Summer Reads: Better Late Than Never

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On August - 30 - 2012

10335308 Sonas Summer Reads: Better Late Than NeverOkay, so yeah, I’m a little late. It’s August 30, which means, unless you’re one of those people who counts the first three weeks of September as summer — and c’mon, who really does? — this barely counts as a summer reads post.

But I’ll tell you this: August 30 is still technically summer. Anyway, so for most of this summer, I’ve been traveling a lot. We did a two-week stint in California, a few days in AC, another week in the lovely Provincetown, Mass., where my husband Navdeep earned a scholarship to a workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center, an amazing program with some awesome online classes, too. In between work-work, hanging with the kid (who, yes, is still not back at daycare), occasional workshopping (yay for returning to that in September!) and trying to squeeze in some writing, well — I still managed to read! Caught you off guard there, huh? You thought I’d be one of those slackers who didn’t manage a single book all summer. Nuh uh, not me. That would have simply been sacrilege.

So in my signature long-windedness, that’s me saying, yes, I do have summer reads for you! Only one YA, but hey, you’ll cope.

Herewith, the list:

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
For the longest time, my sister (and screenwriting partner) Meena and I claimed that one Kevin Williamson had stolen our “life.” You know, by creating hit teen shows like Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries, which we both read in high school (back in the day, when the books first came out) and thought would make a perfect teen TV drama. Anyway, it turns out we were wrong, because, in actuality, it was one Mindy Kaling who’d been living a parallel life all along — and now she’s documented said parallel life in her really funny, super-nostalgic and very YA memoir. It’s wry, insightful, embarrassing, and rings oh-so-true, especially if you’re a small, hippy brown girl from the Northeast who was pretty book-obsessed and un-athletic in high school, but then used all she learned there in her later work. (Yeah, I’d say that is a pretty accurate description.) Anyway, it’s got plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, and it’s a good warm up for Mindy’s upcoming sitcom, The Mindy Project, which premieres in September (which marks the beginning of the FALL).

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
Okay, I really like Jennifer Weiner. Yes, she writes in the much-demeaned chick lit category — which I’ll proudly place myself into — but her work is fun, fast-paced, and frequently insightful. Nothing wrong with that. Many of us could aspire to such success. Anyway, she’s also a very vocal, feisty, no-nonsense woman, and her blog, which frequently calls out the New York Times and other publications on their sexist take on publishing, is pretty awesome. The Next Best Thing, her latest, centers on an everygirl who ends up the head of her own show in Hollywood. Given what I’ve mentioned above, you can see why this was a fun read for me. But underneath the fun, fast-paced read is an examination of the way women struggle to gain and maintain their own power — in the workplace, in romance, in life. Weiner’s got a light touch, but her work isn’t as fluffy as the Times thinks it is.

An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns by John Green
Having read and enjoyed — despite the tears — The Fault In Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, I decided to go back to the classic John Green, perusing his other works, An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns. If you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth revisiting these, which both bear his signature confused-yet-adorable male protagonist, quirky, fun, troubled girls, and twisted, crazy plots that veer off in unexpected directions. Plus, his omnipresent themes of loss, reality versus fantasy, and figuring out who you really are. You may need to keep the tissues handy for these, too, but you won’t use up like three boxes like you did for Stars. Smart, weird, and really fun reads, as expected, from this YA icon. And if you’re a fan like I am, check out this awesome, autographed box set of all four!

Photo courtesy Three Rivers Press

Books With Bang: For Steven, It’s All About the Anatomy of a Sneeze!

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On July - 12 - 2011

kachoo 216x300 Books With Bang: For Steven, Its All About the Anatomy of a Sneeze!One of the greatest lessons I ever learned came courtesy of Dr. Seuss.

When I was a wee little lad, the book that had the biggest bang for me was Dr. Seuss’ Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! Essentially, the book is about a little bug who sneezes, and because of its sneeze, a seed drops on a worms head and the worm gets mad and kicks a tree from which a coconut drops and hits a turtle and so on a so forth, each setting off a wild chain events that causes a city to erupt into chaos. “That started something they’ll never forget. And as a far as I know it is going on yet. And that’s how it happened. Believe me. It’s true. Because…just because…a small bug went KA-CHOO!”

This was my introduction to the idea of a ripple effect. Because of one action, no matter how small, inconsequential or unintentional, there’s always a reaction. Whenever something happens in my life or around me, I always think of the original action that caused that event. I trace back the ripples to the source and analyze it. I guess that’s what makes me a writer.

Applying this concept and philosophy to my own writing has greatly benefitted me. Before I start to write an important scene, I tend to map out in my head how every one of the characters will react. I envision their stories playing out and I think about how each one is affected. I spend a lot of time doing this, and in my head I always envision a pond and throwing a rock into the water and watching the ripples. It’s important to think about:

A)   How strong the ripples are.

B)   How far they stretch.

C)   How big the pool is. Do the ripples keep rebounding and creating waves? Or do they ebb and stop flow? How long does it take until all is calm again? What will everything look like in the aftermath.

And all of this came from a little bug who sneezed. The ripple effect from that I Can Read Dr. Seuss book continues to affect me today. I look at the back of my worn-out copy, where I scribbled my name, and think about how far I’ve come and how much I think about that little bug on a day-to-day basis. And it that sense, I guess it’s had the biggest bang or impact in my life.

ender 184x300 Books With Bang: Corey Offers Up Picks Old and New, From Enders Game to RoomWhen I think about “books with a bang”, my mind goes to that particular brand of book that you cannot put down, because the action/suspense/intrigue is so intense. This is tough for me, because though I love a page-turner, my tastes in general skew towards quieter novels.

But then I remembered childhood Corey, and what SHE liked to read. I was a voracious reader from a very early age, so it took a lot of books to keep my happy. Which meant that I read a lot of unexpected and atypical books just to satisfy my hunger.

A book I would LOVE to return to that made a huge, big bang impact and is completely outside my genre is Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. I don’t remember much about the plot, but I remember everything about my love of the novel, my speedy devouring of its contents, and my insistence that it was my favorite book for a year or two (a huge honor, given how much I loved EVERY book).

I was a sucker for a good Lurlene McDaniel book about dying girls, and found those, also, impossible to put down. And if life or death survival is what classifies a book as being a page-turner, than Hatchet has to be at the top of the list as well.

As far as recent reads go, I think I’m realizing how much I miss the speedy, engrossing reads. I want to be shocked by a novel, and a lot of authors I’m reading these days are playing it safe (Hunger Games being the obvious exception, but how many times can I prostheletize about that series before I am redundant? Already there? Oops!)

Two novels that I would consider “crossover” fit the bill this year: Never Let Me Go and Room. As I do most of my non-work “reading” via audio book (my eyes can’t handle any more than my six hours of reading manuscripts in the office), the sign of a great page-turner for me is when I don’t take off my headphones even after I have gotten off the subway. Both of these books made me walk in the door and sit on my couch as if I was still trapped on the F train. If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is!

part time indian Books With Bang: Caela Gets Fired Up About Sherman Alexies The Absolutely True Diary of A Part time IndianThe book has made the most bangs and sirens and fireworks and yelps and screams and general noise crash around my brain was definitely Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. I am a huge fan of stories — or actual situations — in which kids from totally different backgrounds are forced to face each other’s culture head on.

Junior, Alexie’s principal character, finds the high school on his Indian Reservation lacking. He yearns to learn more than he can there, and at the urging of one of his white teachers, he goes after his education. This comes with consequences. He has to go to an all white school very far away from the reservation. Sometimes he has to hitchhike or even walk to get there depending on who in his family is around, is sober, and has gas in his car. But the logistical problems Junior faces are tiny compared to the cultural ones.  He finds it difficult at first to deal with the bullies at school — that is, until, in one of the most honest and “bang” moments in the book, Junior punches the white boy who is three times his size.

But at the heart of this book is the loss of Junior’s friendship with Rowdy. The Reservation does not adjust well to Junior’s new ambitions and when Rowdy refuses to go with Junior to the new high school, Junior realizes he is leaving his best buddy behind.

Alexie beautifully sets Junior’s story parallel to both the white bully who cannot and will not understand Junior’s struggles, and to Rowdy who cannot and will not try to escape them. There is a genuine humanity, depth and “boy-ness” to each of these characters that sends them screaming into your brain. It is an absolute must-read.

Books With Bang: Mary Recommends Battle Royale

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On July - 8 - 2011

battle royale Books With Bang: Mary Recommends Battle RoyaleWhen I first heard about The Hunger Games, I thought, hmm, that’s been done! Of course, I ended up reading the trilogy and finding that The Hunger Games took its own fantastic approach to the concept. Still, if you like the idea of kids forced to kill each other at the whim of an oppressive future government, you’d be missing something if you missed this book!

In Koushun Takami’s Battle Royale, first published in 1999, the oppressive government is in a future Japan, where each year, a junior high school class is picked by lottery to be taken to an island, where they’re each given a weapon — some more effective than others — and forced to kill each other until one kid remains. The author begins each chapter by telling us how many kids are left, and the writing is sparse and brutal. We mainly follow a single hero, but we learn about a wide variety of characters, from cold-blooded future mobsters to soft-hearted teens experiencing first love. How will the different personalities in the class deal with their situation? Who will be ruthless and who will band together to escape?

If you’re not not faint-hearted and can handle a little blood with your bedtime reading, pick this up!

Cover Image courtesy VIZ Media LLC

thosethatwake Debut Author Interview: Those That Wake Author Jesse Karp Talks TechnologyDebut author Jesse Karp wrote what would become his first novel, Those That Wake, more than eight years ago — so it’s no wonder that his advice for writers on the road to publication is “don’t give up!” We caught up with the New York City-based school librarian to talk technology, writing while parenting two girls, and, of course, perseverance!

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

I grew up in New York City and work there still as a school librarian. This is a fine example of my urge towards storytelling, which I can’t remember ever not having. The moment I could listen to and understand stories, I wanted to tell them, too.  I’ve been writing for real since I was in college, for all anybody cared to notice. I had piled up ten manuscripts before someone showed interest in Those That Wake. As it is my first published work, I’ve not launched myself into writing fulltime just yet. There are lots of ways to express yourself in stories and writing is a great one, but reading to kids is pretty fantastic, too.

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

Those That Wake is about two teenagers who stumble onto a hidden machinery that secretly runs our world and must pay the price for this knowledge.

The concept grew out of three things for me: 1) My love of cinematic paranoia/conspiracy thrillers, movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Parallax View, Marathon Man and All the President’s Men, which suggest that the world does not actually work the way it appears to. 2) Reading a book called Dark Nature: a Natural History of Evil by Lyall Watson, which introduced me to a fascinating theory about how ideas are transmitted. 3) Looking around me and seeing how we are giving more and more of our attention and resources to electronic media and communication technology, which sometimes works to our advantage and sometimes really, really does not. 4) Underlying all of this was the fact that I was writing Those That Wake as my first daughter was about to be born. I was trying to distill a single, powerful message that I would like to pass along to her and I came to one which I think is of great value these days: don’t give up.

Why did you decide to set your book in New York City versus other American cities?

Having lived in New York City all my life, I know it well and it’s close to my heart, two elements that are crucial to creating a sense of realism in setting, I think. New York is also an ideal representation of the modern urban world and so served as a good microcosm of how, it seems to me, much of society is developing technologically and socially.

You incorporate an interesting message about technology in Those That Wake. What inspired this?

Just looking around, really. Once upon a time, we envisioned the future as an exploration of the vast reaches of space, moving outwards to meet our potential. We have, in fact, gone exactly the opposite way: into the digital innerspace of the internet and focusing back inwards on ourselves through social networking and communication technology.

Those That Wake appears to have a very extreme stance on technological progress, which is not altogether analogous to my own. Writing suspense, conflict and speculation is, of course, partially dependent on exaggerating things. I absolutely see the extraordinary advantages we’re getting out of our technological evolution, but I think these technologies are changing us psychologically, socially and culturally in ways we’re not even aware of. Imagine hurrying down the street without looking in front of you. Could be dangerous, right? It’s the same thing with rushing headlong down the pathway that technology has opened for us. That’s the message about technology I hope Those That Wake manages to convey: look where you’re going.

JesseKarp1 Debut Author Interview: Those That Wake Author Jesse Karp Talks TechnologyWhat does a typical writing day look like for you?

As a father of two girls, a husband and a guy with a day job, I’m sorry to say that a typical writing “day” for me begins after my family has gone to bed. I can get anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour done per night, which works pretty well if I’m disciplined about it and supplement it with lots of focused writing on days when I’m not working.

Where I write is pretty much always at home, though occasionally I’ll head out to a public library if I need to assure myself of quiet and have absolutely no distractions.

When I travel for work (to conferences and conventions), I can get a LOT of writing done.

Inspiration, I suppose, comes from everything I see, hear or do, though the truth is I barely think about that anymore. My head is so filled with ideas now that I’ve had the validation of getting a book published, the trick is in slowing the inspiration down so that I can write enough to catch up with it. I’ve also found that, once I get going on a story, the characters and situations begin demanding their own paths and resolutions, and it becomes easier to lay that out before them.

What has your path to publication been like?

I wrote Those That Wake just before the birth of my first daughter nearly eight years ago. Like my other manuscripts, it collected dust and rejection letters for a good long time before, in trying to get a short story published, I was asked whether I had a manuscript with a similar tone. That was how Those That Wake found an agent.

Two things have been a great surprise to me. First, how much can change about a story while the nature of the characters, the basic structure and the essential themes remain intact. This is a tribute to a truly talented editor (who, in this case, was my agent – he and I went through extensive revisions before it ever saw an actual editor’s desk).

The second thing that surprised me was just how powerful certain forces in the book market are. Barnes and Noble, for example, has an extraordinary amount of influence on everything from the cover that’s chosen for a book to the way the book is actually sold. Much of a shopper’s experience is very carefully guided within the stores by the by where and  how certain books are displayed. There’s a great deal more going on behind the marketing and selling of a book than most of us ever know.

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

The best writing advice I ever got is, possibly, the best plain old advice I ever got: “Don’t complain.  Work harder.”

I would add to that the very simple to say but very hard to do “don’t give up.” Seriously, it took me twenty years to get a book published.  It CAN happen. Do. Not. Give. Up.

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

The House of Stairs by William Sleator was hugely influential in my reading life and in how I viewed the world. I didn’t even realize how much my view of things and my early ideas about Those That Wake owed to Sleator’s book until I reread it just recently. It’s a riveting and relevant piece of work.

I just finished Among Wolves by Scott O’Connor, about a boy who starts to believe that his family has been replaced by impostors; a fast, clever and chilling read. I’m about to go back to some of Thomas Ligotti’s short stories, which capture a disturbing tone and a sense of the deeply (and darkly) weird unlike anything else I’ve ever read.

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

I have a non-fiction book coming out in October called Graphic Novels in Your School Library, which is about using graphic novels in an educational context (I teach a graduate class on the history and analysis of comics and graphic novels when I’m not working with little kids or writing).

I’m also finishing up the first draft of the sequel to Those That Wake.

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

The only community of writers I’ve ever really belonged to were the one or two writing classes I took in college. I do find constructive criticism very helpful (necessary, even), if sometimes difficult to hear. If ego can be kept out of the exchanges, I find the idea of writing communities absolutely agreeable, though as I said, this is sheerly in the abstract as I have no real experience with them.

Photos courtesy Houghton Mifflin and Jesse Karp

pixel Debut Author Interview: Those That Wake Author Jesse Karp Talks Technology

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