Teen Writers Bloc

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

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

Post-MFA, Sona’s Busier Than Ever (And Writing!)

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On June - 26 - 2012

wordcount 285x300 Post MFA, Sonas Busier Than Ever (And Writing!)So many times before on this blog, as I posted, I sadly reported that I haven’t been writing at all. That work has just been too crazy (which it always has — and continues to be), that life with a toddler keeps me busy (yup, still happening), and that I’m actually a relatively social person (who has a hard time saying no to a fun invite).

But this time, as we do our post-MFA check-ins, I’m happy report that I have been writing. In fact, I wrote 4,000 words last week. Yes, of fiction. Which is not to say I’m writing 4,000 every week. But thanks to my awesome crit group — made up of my former classmates, although it sounds so weird to say that — I’ve still got deadlines to get me motivated.

And I’m really excited to continue working on my thesis project, which clocked in at about 80 pages when I turned it in. Granted, even with the regular bursts of additional pages, I’m only about a third of the way through. But the story is working for me, it’s something close to my heart, and I’m really interested in the characters, who keep taking new and fascinating turns when I least expect it. It’s actually fun to write.

I’ve also been reading a lot — about a book a week, which is huge, given my schedule. I’m trying to make more time for it, because a) I love to read and b) it’s so important to get out of your own head and learn about storytelling from the work of others. Besides books like The Fault In Our Stars and Allison Winn’s The Song Remains the Same (yes, I actually read adult fiction, too), I’ve been enjoying my said former classmates’ latest, as many of them are on to new projects as well. And I’ll get to enjoy a lot of their own works as actual, fully bound books in the near future as you see a rash of TeenWritersBloc.com contributors books on bookstore shelves near you in the coming year. I’m super-excited for that.

So here’s to bigger and better, but staying a close knit community with my fellow recent MFA grads. As much as that chapter may be over, a new one begins — and hopefully, the cast of characters will remain much the same.

Jean Paul Notebooks 600x506 Guest Blogger Jean Paul Bass Reflections on Her First Year in an MFA

Reading everyone else’s thoughts on getting an MFA, I thought about why I am in the program at all. Because, you see, I made a giant mistake when I applied to The New School.

The mistake began years before I even thought about getting an MFA, before I even thought about being a writer. It began in the summer before I entered the tenth grade, when I wrote a story in a green notebook and then promptly threw it away. That green notebook contained the first story I had ever written and without even finishing it, I was convinced the story was no good. So I got rid of it.

Fast forward a few years to when I dropped in and out of three colleges, sometimes simultaneously attending one while in the midst of failing classes at another, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about being a linguist, a teacher, a paralegal, a museum curator, a librarian, studying medieval history, owning a bookstore, basically anything except writing. But I never forgot about the story in that green notebook and when a friend suggested I write something instead of picking apart the bad writing in a book I had just read, I did it. And when I shared the story with my friend, I was amazed that she liked it, and everyone she showed it to liked it. That’s when I revisited that old story, and even though I had forgotten most of the details, I decided to finally finish it.

Over the course of six months, I stayed up until four and five in the morning, writing because I couldn’t sleep at night. My brain raced with new ideas and I would lie awake in bed, begging my mind to shut down so I could sleep but also excited about all of the scenes I couldn’t wait to write. So I would crawl out of bed and write until the sun came up.

Eventually I finished the book and after sharing it with a few friends, I put it away because I felt it just wasn’t good enough to be published. And I continued on with my life, but by then I had decided to finish college with a degree in English and Creative Writing. In my writing classes, I focused on literary fiction, or adult writing as I call it, because no one in my classes read or wrote YA novels and I didn’t feel comfortable submitting anything that wasn’t adult-orientated. So my YA novels and ideas were put on the back burner as I concentrated on my adult stories even though I didn’t much care about them. I just wanted to write and be around writers.

When it came time to apply for an MFA program, I picked The New School because of the writing for children concentration. I thought it would be great to work on fiction and writing for children but I only applied to the fiction program. I looked at the YA novel I had written and the other YA ideas I had started but never finished, felt none of them were ready, and prepared my fiction submission.

My first semester in the fiction MFA program left me feeling lost. I didn’t care about what I submitted, and dreaded my second year and all of the expectations that came with it. What would I write about during my thesis semester? What would I read at the final student readings? None of the my adult stories were special enough for me to want to keep revising or showcase them and I had no new ideas.

But I had tons of YA stuff I could write and polish. In my second semester, I took a writing for children seminar and I finally felt like I belonged. Here were people who took children’s books seriously, who didn’t treat genre like the plague, and I finally had the chance to share some of my YA ideas and characters with people who could understand where I was coming from and why these characters and their stories mattered to me.

As the semester ended and it came time to choose classes for the next year, a sinking feeling settled into my stomach and I realized what I had done to myself. By not applying to the writing for children program, I had once again thrown away my green notebook. I knew I had made a giant mistake that would haunt me for years, just like the story I had been too scared to finish writing, and I knew I needed to make a change. I finally realized why I didn’t apply to the writing for children program: because writing for children is what matters to me. Fiction was easy; I almost didn’t care if one of my adult stories was rejected. But to put my YA novel out there frightened me. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone saying my YA novel wasn’t good enough and so I didn’t give anyone that chance.

Once I admitted the real reason why I didn’t apply to the writing for children program, I did everything I could to get myself in there. I talked with the program director and began meeting up with my writing for children classmates so that we could start our own workshops and attend writing for children events together. And I sent out the first few chapters of the novel I wrote based on the first story I had ever written in that green notebook for my classmates’ critiques.

I had almost given up on the MFA program because I was getting my degree for all of the wrong reasons. I still struggle with having confidence in myself and my writing, but I know I am getting better, better at writing and better at staying true to myself. And I owe it to the green notebook. Even though I threw it away all those years ago, the memories of writing my first story in there have never left my mind. I used to be embarrassed at my teenage attempt at writing, but now I look back with fondness and inspiration. It is because of those memories that I feel at home in the writing for children MFA program and am glad that I fixed my giant mistake.

Guest blogger Jean-Paul Bass recently decided to quit her job to focus on writing full-time and she swears she doesn’t miss having a regular paycheck at all. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction and writing for children at The New School.  If she could finish her memoir about growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, before graduation, then she would be quite satisfied with herself. 

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul

Dhonielle Wonders, Is an MFA at The New School Worth It?

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On May - 21 - 2012

sayonara Dhonielle Wonders, Is an MFA at The New School Worth It?If someone asked me whether or not I’d do the MFA in Writing for Children at The New School again, I’d say YES and NO!

YES, only if I could get the same class of talented writers — Corey Haydu, Caela Carter, Sona Charaipotra, Amy Ewing, Amber Hyppolite, Jess Verdi, Jane Moon, Alyson Gerber, Mary Thompson, Riddhi Parekh, and Kevin Joinville. I think the Class of 2012 was put together by kismet/fate. On the very first day of class I felt this energy, like “This is IT!”

And since then we’ve hit the ground running — finished projects, developed extra workshops, hunted for agents, attended readings and conferences, landed publishing contracts. I’ve forged deep, life-long relationships with my peers and I know I’ll be an old bitty sitting around with many of them discussing children’s books and hollering for grandkids to sit down somewhere cause they’re being too loud.

I came to New York City and this program full of BIG ideas and a desire to do BIG things. If it wasn’t for my classmates willingness to entertain my crazy antics and ideas and energy (like the creation and maintenance of the Teen Writers Bloc blog, and more things to come…), then the program could’ve been quite dull, in fact.

I would’ve been upset even further with some of the unfavorable aspects of the program. So YES, I’d re-do the program just to have 2 more years of reading my classmates’ manuscripts and having workshops with them and constant deadlines.

Onto the NO portion of this conversation.

I would NOT do this MFA over again due to the unfavorable bits of The New School’s MFA in Writing for Children. Alas! Where do I start?

Firstly, I have to fully confess that I have an MA in Children’s and Young Adult Literature from Hollins University, so I had very HIGH expectations before coming in to The New School’s MFA program. If the Hollins program was located in New York City it would drain The New School of its applicants completely in my opinion (and I know many Hollins Grads would agree).

Just check out this course list: They feature classes like Children and Poetry, The Fantastic in Children’s Literature, Minority Images in Children’s Literature — Reading in Color, Exploring boundaries — Books For and About Boys, Children’s Film, When Childhood Goes to Hollywood, and the Modern Young Adult Novel. This isn’t even half of what’s offered.

Failure #1: Lack of Choice!

The New School Writing for Children MFA lacks choice, and choice is desperately important to me. I am a person that values the opportunity to choose my fate and pick my poison, so to speak. I don’t like being forced into something or to suffer from a lack of options (even with food). When I was a child, my parents learned very quickly that if they wanted me to do something they needed to present me with choices, and orchestrate it so that I’d ultimately pick the one thing they wanted me to do.

In the New School Writing for Children concentration we had NO choices. We were assigned to our workshops and our literature seminars until we had to pick a class outside of our concentration during our third semester. As an aside, I did enjoy the classes they offered us in our concentration — Teen Literature with David Levithan and Middle Grade Fiction with Susan van Metre. Also, I enjoyed the weekend workshops with Sarah Ketchersid and Andrea Pinkney.

no choice Dhonielle Wonders, Is an MFA at The New School Worth It?But the worst part of the NO choice thing was our third semester literature class. This was the most horrible experience during the program. Our concentration is ghettoized into an enclave where we only hang out with each other, and then we were thrown into classes with the other MFA students. The fiction professors don’t put any children’s or teen books on their syllabi and there was a general disdain or dismissal of children’s books. I hated this whole experience and the program requirement. I think it should’ve been an option for those who wanted to diversify and not a requirement. I think I created a class record — speaking one time the entire class )out of maybe 15 people in the course), and the professor didn’t care enough to engage me.

Failure #2: Lack of a picture book class!

The lack of a picture book curriculum was very frustrating at the New School. I believe after leaving this program I have a massive hole in my educational background. We received little to no instruction about picture books. If someone asked me to write a picture book right this instant, I’d be unable to do so. One caveat — our third semester workshop professor Sarah Weeks gave us an awesome picture book lesson. It was a snapshot and I would’ve loved an entire course on it.

I didn’t have to read picture books or study them or even try to write them. I think this is a problem. Some students may not want to have to create picture books, but it’s part of the canon of children’s literature and I feel it should be introduced and/or discussed. Instead of wasting my money and taking a class outside of my concentration, I should’ve been offered a picture book class. Makes sense, right? Teen, Middle Grade, Picture Books — the whole spectrum of children’s books.

Failure #3: Out of touch professors.

Yes, it’s controversial and I said it. I would have loved to have a professor who liked fantasy or genre fiction (or even read fantasy) or who looked like me or who was in touch with the “current” market, etc. I could go on and on here, but I will spare you. Hmm, not to toot my own horn here, but if I was a professor or teaching a writing class, on the first day of class I’d give a homework assignment as such:

“Who’s love-child are you? Find your literary parents in the bookstore! If you were to pitch to an agent or editor who you are in terms of your writing based on two other established authors, who would they be? Fill in the formula: Dhonielle is XX meets XX, with a sprinkle of XX. Her current project is XX, which is a combination of XX and XX.”

Then, because I am an overzealous person, I would try to familiarize myself with the work of the people they listed, so I could be most helpful to them, and really try to grasp what they are trying to do in their writing. I wish a professor would do something like that. Maybe one day I’ll get the pleasure of teaching and be able to do that. To really help students transform into the writers they want to be, while keeping their work firmly placed where they want it to be, not where I want it to be.

All in all, the New School MFA was a hell of a ride. I loved it. Met lifelong friends and started awesome creative relationships. I will miss the program, but Jackson Taylor isn’t rid of me yet. I told him I would be the squeaky wheel and the thorn in his backside until I graduate, and what he doesn’t know is that I am going to continue to do so long after Thursday, May 17th.

Photo Credit: the-one-about.blogspot.com, dryicons.com

Amy’s MFA Takeaway: Don’t Give Up

Posted by Amy Ewing On May - 11 - 2012

dont give up 300x225 Amys MFA Takeaway: Dont Give UpI don’t think I’m going to say anything different than what many of my classmates have already said: This program was really worth it because of the group as a whole, the fantastic other writers I was surrounded by, more so than the professors.

Don’t get me wrong, our professors were terrific — but we only had them for one semester each. And then there were summer vacations and winter breaks and all that time we didn’t have to write if we didn’t want to. So really, it is that old adage of what you put in is what you get out.

If you decide to apply to a program like this one, think of it as a gift, a period of time in which you can really dedicate yourself to pursuing something you love. I think the most important thing I learned was DON’T GIVE UP. I’m not the only person who tried and failed with a first manuscript. And, as I’ve said before, it was pretty devastating. But I still had time. I had a whole two semesters to write something new, and I did, and what was the result? I just signed with an amazing agent, Charlie Olsen at Inkwell Management. Remember all that fear of “Dear Author” emails and crying into large glasses of wine? Well, I faced it, overcame it, and won. Two years ago, I would never have thought this possible.

So, really, it all came down to DON’T GIVE UP. Push yourself. If you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by incredibly talented writers like I was, make them push you, too. If not, find at least one person to hold you accountable. This was not the path I thought my life would take, and I don’t think it ever would have happened without The New School. Are there flaws in the program? Sure. But I don’t regret this giant (and expensive) leap of faith, not for a single second.

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

new school Guest Blogger Ghenet Myrthil Responds to Marys Question of Low Expectations

I’ve followed Teen Writers Bloc pretty much since its inception, and what I’ve loved most about it is the variety of perspectives the bloggers provide on their experience as writers and MFA students. I graduated from The New School Writing for Children program in 2010, and it’s been fun to read their posts and reminisce about my own time there.

The question the bloggers are tackling this month has to do with whether this MFA program is worthwhile. After reading Mary’s response, I realized how different my experience in the program was compared to hers.

Some things haven’t changed. The program still has its benefits and drawbacks, which I’m sure is true of many graduate programs. Like Mary, I didn’t find the adult literature class I took to be very useful, and I was equally offended by the administration’s assumption that children’s literature writers aren’t real writers unless they study adult lit. What a load of crap!

Also, like Mary, the main reason I loved the program was because of the writers I formed a community with while there. The support I receive from them even now, two years later, is invaluable. Not all twelve of us keep in touch anymore, but the five that I do keep in touch with are awesome.

One point Mary made in her post gave me pause:

“Finally, there’s the problem of low expectations. If you wanted to, you could graduate from the program without ever having completed a novel. The thesis requirement is only fifty pages. You could literally write only fifty pages in the entire program and still graduate.” 

Here’s where I respectfully disagree, and where my experience in the program differed.

I agree that MFA applicants need to decide what their expectations are before entering a program like this, because a lot of it is what you make of it. However, I don’t agree with the idea that if you don’t complete a novel by the end of the program, your expectations are too low. It’s not so black and white. The creative section of my thesis was only seventy pages (18,000 words). I certainly wrote way more than seventy pages over the course of the program (since I started several projects before deciding to focus on one), but I didn’t complete an entire novel.

There were two main reasons for this. One was a lack of time. I had a full-time job while in the program, and was also planning my wedding, so I found it hard to write every day. Along with all of the other program requirements (reading a book a week, critiquing several submissions a week, attending readings, and of course attending class), it was a lot to juggle. Second, I had never written a novel before. I entered the program having only ever written short stories.

 

My personal expectation for the program was to learn more about kid lit (through the literature classes), improve my writing (through the workshops) and get as far into a novel as I could. I would have loved to finish an entire novel, and I wrote as much as I could, but a completed manuscript wasn’t in the cards.

 

Despite that, I was so proud of my thesis! And I’ve since finished and revised that book. What I really wanted out of the program was to kick start my career, and it did just that.So while I agree that you do have to think about WHY you want to get an MFA and WHAT you want to accomplish, it’s okay if you don’t end up completing a whole manuscript. In fact, I was one of many people in my class who only submitted portions of manuscripts for their theses and completed their books after the program ended. At the time, none of my classmates had agents or book deals. Many of us (myself included) are still working toward that goal. None of us are unmotivated. We were just at an earlier stage of our careers while at The New School. We took our time getting the pages we wrote for our theses right.

One thing that’s very clear about the Class of 2012 is that they are a very motivated and productive bunch. I’m seriously impressed by how they’ve supported each other and pushed one another to write so much. I’m sure they’ll have long and successful careers, and I feel the same way about my old classmates! If there’s one thing I’ve learned from getting an MFA, and being a writer in general, it’s that everyone follows their own journey and writes at their own pace.

Thanks, Teen Writers Bloc, for letting me share my experience!

me Guest Blogger Ghenet Myrthil Responds to Marys Question of Low Expectations

Ghenet Myrthil is a 2010 graduate of The New School Writing for Children program. She’s currently seeking representation for her contemporary young adult novel. You can find her blogging at www.ghenetmyrthil.com and tweeting @ghenet

Covers Race in YA from a Biracial Perspective    Guest Blogger Jean Paul Bass Weighs in on the IssueI grew up reading Barbara Park, Louis Sachar, Baby-Sitters Club, S. E. Hinton, Paula Danzinger, Beverly Cleary, the American Girls series, and Lois Lowry. Some of my favorite books from childhood are The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Just as Long as We’re Together and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume, the Anne of Green Gables series, Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, and Betsy Byers’s The Summer of the Swans. So I had a pretty eclectic taste in books, but one thing never varied: pretty much all of the books and authors I liked focused solely on white characters. If there was a non-white character, s/he was usually around to teach the white kids a lesson on race or tolerance or just a peripheral character who happened to be ethnic, but usually not the main character. (Some of the authors/books/series mentioned above did feature non-white characters, but that was pretty rare and even rarer for the main character to be non-white.)

So I know I should be lamenting the lack of diversity in the books I read as a kid and how it made me think less of myself, but honestly, it didn’t bother me or affect my self-image growing up. I never read books looking for characters that were just like me because I didn’t want to read about me, a poor, biracial girl living with an abusive white mother in an economically-depressed and uneducated black neighborhood who was made fun of for attending mostly-white private schools. I knew that story inside and out and didn’t want to read about it while I was still living it. Books were my escape, my chance to see how normal people lived because my life was very abnormal.

I grew up seeing myself as neither black nor white, but as a mixture of both, and so it didn’t matter what race the characters were so long as they took me away from the problems of real life. But now, as an adult, I realize those books did have an impact on me. As a writer, it’s so easy for me to fall into the default white trap. Creating racially diverse characters is a conscious effort and I have to actively work to make sure that my stories represent people of all skin colors.

When I come up with a new idea, I generally don’t think about race. As I start writing and getting to know my characters, sometimes a light bulb goes off and I think, hey, wouldn’t it be cool if everyone was black or mixed-race like me? But why do I think writing a book about non-whites is a novelty? It all comes back to the books I read growing up. Even though I wasn’t bothered by the lack of diversity as a child, it subconsciously left an impression on me and made me prewired to assume my own characters are white, which is troubling since I’m not even fully-white myself.

In my own writing, I sometimes get a bit heavy-handed with my character descriptions. I feel like I have to shove it in the reader’s face that these characters are not white because if it isn’t explicitly stated, then people will just assume everyone’s white. And, frankly, I’m tired of reading stories exclusively about white people as if people of color don’t exist. We do, and our stories need to be told, too. I now recognize the importance of including a racially diverse cast of characters. Nowadays, I get excited when I find a book with a biracial main character and if the character is female, it’s even better. It feels good to be represented in literature.

Guest blogger Jean-Paul Bass recently decided to quit her job to focus on writing full-time and she swears she doesn’t miss having a regular paycheck at all. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction at The New School and writing a memoir about growing up in Cleveland, Ohio.   

Photo Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Scholastic, HarperCollins, Viking, Dell Yearling, and Puffin

Caela’s Tips for Making an MFA Program Work for You

Posted by Caela Carter On May - 2 - 2012

 Caelas Tips for Making an MFA Program Work for YouAs we reflect on our time at The New School this month, I am predicting a repeating theme: yes, this degree and endeavor was worth it for ME personally, but I wouldn’t say it’s ALWAYS worth it.

In the course of my time at The New School, I managed to finish three complete drafts for three separate novels and start countless others; I landed an awesome agent, Kate McKean; and I sold my first book in a two-book deal to Bloomsbury. I am 100 percent certain that this would not have happened if I had not taken the plunge, moved across the country and gone back to school. However, I also don’t think I would have reached these goals, and certainly I would not have reached them so quickly, if it weren’t for my classmates. And that’s the problem. Who you end up in class with is completely luck, right?

Well, maybe it doesn’t have to be. When I think about it, our class did practical things that lead to it’s effectiveness. So maybe we should talk about actual steps that will make an MFA, especially The New School Writing for Children MFA, worth it.

1. Write WAY MORE than required. You’re only going to be submitting every few weeks, but you need to write everyday. In my first semester I imposed a two hour a day rule on myself and I was disciplined. I would come home from work, turn my phone off, disconnect my internet, and set an alarm. Then I would sit at my computer until the alarm went off.  By the time I was required to submit my first ten pages, I had close to 80. When it was time for me to submit, I would then go back and edit the ten pages I was going to send. I would have a much better sense of the shape of the whole because I had so much more written. This made it much easier to weed out the helpful criticism during critique.

2. Find a small group of serious writers from within your class and form an extra critique group. Meet regularly and be dedicated to it. Sona, Corey, Dhonielle, Amy and I did this for the first two semester and Sona, Corey, Alyson, Dhonielle, Lenea and I have done this for the final semester. This has been incredibly valuable to me because I get more written with more deadlines, because I get to have a dialogue about my work, and because I get invested in voices outside my own. It’s easier for me to have a realistic (and not overly negative) opinion of my own work when I’m very invested in others’ as well.

3. Start a project together. I think we would all agree that Teen Writers Bloc helped us to become a unit. It also gives us a way to stay connected to each other and our writing after we graduate.  And, when at times we were perhaps a bit frustrated with some select teachers, Teen Writers Bloc helped us feel supported and reminded us that there is a larger purpose to our writing than what’s happening in class.

4. After the first semester, your classmates are going to know your writing better than your teachers do, because they will have read more of it. Find the voices from your classmates that are helpful to you and listen to them. Listen to your teachers, but remember that they’re only with you for a semester. So you also need to find helpful critiquers among your peers.

5. Find the classmates who really know the business and talk post-drafting. Talk about query letters, agents, publishing houses, promotion, and other aspects of the business. Share agent stories. Share queries. (Heck, Sona basically wrote my query for me, and Mary helped me land an agent.). Get invested in each others’ careers because different people have different strengths. Use yours to benefit the entire class, and then tap on others’ shoulders.

6. Trade full manuscripts before your query. You need someone to read from beginning to end, not just in little spurts, and your best bets are going to be the people in your class, provided you have invested in their writing and careers as well.

7. Become friends. Go for drinks or coffee. Take a walk. Throw a holiday party like Corey did for us first semester. Ultimately, this was a positive experience of most of us, but with a huge side of frustration, disappointment, and lack of control. That’s what happens when you’re really passionate about your career. You will need your friends to commiserate and celebrate with, because no one else will understand what you’re talking about. And because sometimes you need to get a good gripe out before you can get back to work.

Photo Credit: Institute Childrens Lit

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).

Rules:

*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

pixel Giveaway! Wuftoom by Mary G. Thompson
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