Teen Writers Bloc

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

What’s on Alyson’s 2013 Wish List?

Posted by Alyson Gerber On January - 1 - 2013

wish list Whats on Alysons 2013 Wish List?

You might remember that I am a New Year’s resolution failure. Well, that hasn’t changed. When it comes to creating a routine and sticking to it, I am awful. Absolutely incapable.

I envy people who order the same salad for lunch everyday, who consistently check the forecast and leave home (all responsible) with an umbrella and a weather-appropriate jacket, who do the same things over and over again (or at least more than once). I wish I could be that way. It looks so much better, especially when it rains. But I am not. I can’t help it. Maybe I need things to be a little chaotic. I am pretty sure no matter how hard I try, I will always be a little bit of a hot mess. Or at least, I will see myself that way. It is part of my charm. I hate routines, and I don’t thrive on them. So, why have I been pushing myself to write the same amount of words, at the same table, with the same cup of coffee everyday? It makes no sense, and I am done doing it.

There is only one thing on my 2013 Wish List—I am making a resolution that won’t fail. I am giving up trying to be someone I am not. I am going to be okay with the fact that I am someone who writes best on my phone, and on random post-its, and on paper table clothes, and on the subway, anywhere but on my computer. Except, of course, when I have finally given up on staring at my computer, given up on my 2,000 word goal for the day, when I have accepted that I can’t write anymore, that is exactly when I can’t stop typing. It makes no sense, but it is me. It’s what I do, and this year, I am going to be okay with it, because my chaotic way of doing things is actually working. I can feel it every time I work on my new book. Every time I send pages out to be critiqued. Just being me is working, and I’m not going to stop.

 

What’s Riddhi Been Up To? Well, It Depends On Which Way You Spin It…

Posted by Riddhi Parekh On October - 24 - 2012

 Whats Riddhi Been Up To? Well, It Depends On Which Way You Spin It...So, there’s two ways I could spin this:

I could rant endlessly about how busy and burdened I’ve been.

Malarkey but entirely factual stuff about moving house (which can be ridiculously time-consuming and delay many other things in your life, like turning in this blog post) and boatloads of book-reading for work that filled my entire summer. And how it was a great thing because I have a lovely new apartment and that this insatiable reading actually made me a better writer. I mean, if a phenomenally bestselling author like Stephen King says this, clearly, by finding a place where I enjoy reading and reading a lot, I’m just gathering my tools, right?

Or… I could admit that I may not have made as much to write as I should have?

But while I haven’t written anything fresh that I’m ready to workshop (yet), I can admit that a new project is spinning itself inside my head. And—more importantly—in a word document that is punctiliously updated and backed up, I have been carefully plotting and planning. Details. Research. A beginning. The main conflict. A possible end? Genre. Theme. Protagonists. Character sketches. I think I know the format I want it to be in. And I’m REALLY excited to dive into it… but only, I haven’t found the time to properly write it.

But I will. Soon. Like right about NOW.

Is this weird? Is this progress? Procrastination? A result of the creative writing MFA? Anything to do with reading for work? Probably yes to all. And still, I love that this process of knowing what could happen is completely new and EXCITING for me. In the past, I went into my stories blindfolded, tumbling down the rabbithole of a blank word document with no idea where I was going, knowing only that I’d have to turn something in at deadline—whatever I had spewed and spun into ten or fifteen pages.

For the first time ever, I feel like I’m in control of the castrophany that’s about to come. And I guess the only way to go is to set that deadline so I can twirl, whirl and yarn this darn thing together. And NO, it doesn’t have anything to do with these cool images I found from stock.xchng but they match my though processes and I tried to match my post around them and hope you enjoy!

Why Perla is Proud to Be a Quitter

Posted by Teen Writers Bloc On October - 22 - 2012

 Why Perla is Proud to Be a QuitterSo what’s new in my life?  I would say a whole lot!

Earlier this school year I decided to resign from all my jobs.  I resigned as an adjunct professor and I resigned from the position I had with the Board of Ed.  I must say however the decision was a scary one and I was in a state of shock for some time. I expected some distress and even some insomnia while I pondered my life and the fact that I was giving this writing thing my all.   Today, however, I feel overwhelmingly excited.  I made the best choice — I knew my writing and my last year in grad school would have been almost nonexistent if I would have gone back to teaching full time (while also being a mom of two).

And it has proven so worth it.  This semester has definitely been great thus far.  Now that our second year has started I think most of the inhibitions/insecurities one feels when first starting something new have greatly diminished.  Workshops go by a lot quicker and are pretty straightforward.  Everyone knows each other pretty well and for the most part know what everyone is working on and what they need to work on.

I also attended an awesomely awesome writing conference a few weeks ago– The Comadres and Compadres Writing Conference.  It was the first Latino writing conference organized by Las Comadres Para Las Americas.  In this one-day event amazing Latino writers such as Nicholosa Mohr, Sonia Manzano and Dahlma Llanos Figueroa shared their wisdom and teamed up with editors and agents all looking for Latino writers to represent.  The day was packed with inspiration and positivity.  It definitely made me feel better about recently quitting (especially after pitching my unfinished manuscript and getting great reviews). All the negativity surrounding Latinos getting into the publishing world that I had heard the previous year was dispelled after this wonderful event.

Lastly the one thing that has probably caused us second years some stress is the inevitable search for advisors for our anxiety-producing thesis semester.   But I recently received the incredible news that I will working with David Levithan next semester. I can’t even describe how freaking exciting I am.  David Levithan!! That is all.

Photo credit: robbieabed.com

Jean-Paul Reflects on Taking Classes With the First and Second Years

Posted by JeanPaul Bass On October - 11 - 2012

73000961 eeb19145e2 n Jean Paul Reflects on Taking Classes With the First and Second YearsAhhh, second-year-itis has set in for me. I have a class with all of the Writing for Children first years and I can’t help looking at them with knowing fondness. To be a year younger, starting an MFA program, with so many possibilities ahead of me. Oh, to be young again!

It wasn’t until my second semester of the MFA program that I realized I didn’t belong in Fiction. Over the summer, I switched to Writing for Children and now in my third semester, I can’t help but think of the time wasted working towards something that didn’t really fit me. Now I am in one class with the second years and in another class with the first years. I didn’t get the chance to form a bond with anyone that first semester because in Fiction, every class is with new people, so it takes a while before you can get to know someone. But in Writing for Children, those first two semesters are with the same people for every class, so it’s as if the program created a group of writing companions just for you.

Already, the first years know what everyone is working on, who is really good at line edits, and who gets their writing and what they’re trying to do. The second years also have a background with each other. They know who is working on what, the history of certain characters and why one is acting a certain way that baffles me when I read a later chapter in a story, and probably have a general idea of who they want to work with in their peer groups next semester.

Of course, in Fiction it’s rare to start any semester with more than two people from a previous class and each workshop is filled with stories and characters you’ve never met before and will probably never meet again, but Writing for Children is not the same. The people you meet in the first semester are what you get, unless someone drops out of the program or switches to a different genre. Or switches into the genre, as I did.

I came to the school not only to improve my writing and my chances of publication, but also to develop relationships that will last beyond graduation. I envy the first years who already knew each other by name in the second week, while I still barely know them by face. And while I have become friends with the second years inside and outside of class, I do wish I had been there with them from the beginning. I feel like I am in-between since I have classes with both groups, but as I look towards next semester and what comes after, I sometimes think I may have the best of both years. I already have friendships within the second years and now I have to the potential to get to know and make friends with the first years. My community of writers is growing, and that can only make me a better writer in the long run.

Am I glad I switched? You betcha. Even if I sometimes feel like I’m in a class all by myself.

Image courtesy flickr/Wysz

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

 Too Much Reading is Making Jesss Eyes Cross (But Shes Not Complaining!)This has been a crazy summer for me, reading-wise. I’ve both read more than I’ve ever read before in my life, and at the same time didn’t get to read nearly as much as I would have liked. See, I work as an editor for a romance novel publisher. So forty-plus hours per week, I’m reading. I read full manuscript submissions and decide whether to pass, offer a contract, or write up a revision letter. I read contracted authors’ manuscripts and work my editorial muscles, helping the authors take their work to the next level. I also proofread, copyedit, write back cover copy, format and style for eBook publication, and wade through countless queries and plot synopses. It’s a LOT of reading. And I love every second of it.

However, because I’m reading all day every day, the last thing I want to do when I get off work at six o’clock is open a book. My poor eyes need a break! Still, I have managed to squeeze in a bit of extracurricular reading this summer. I’ve gotten the chance to read amazing first drafts and equally as amazing revisions from my fellow TWB peeps. I also read The List, by New School alum Siobhan Vivian, which was wonderful (although the third person-present completely threw me off and I felt like the whole book was being narrated by Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone). But by far my guiltiest pleasure so far this summer was Freefall – Season 9, Volume 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Moline. Yep, it’s a graphic novel, and yep, it’s a continuation of the almighty genius that was the Buffy television series. And yep, the whole graphic novel series is abso-freaking-lutely fantastic.

In a couple of days, I will be taking a bit of time off from my lovely editorial job and getting on a plane with Dhonielle to go visit our dear friend Amy in South Africa. It’s a 15-hour nonstop flight, people, and you can bet I’m prepared. My in-flight reading queue consists of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Vicious Deep by (my fellow Sourcebooks Fire author) Zoraida Cordova, and I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. Who knows, maybe one of those will knock Buffy off her pedestal as the best thing I’ve read this summer… time will tell!

Book cover image courtesy of Dark Horse

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

Alyson’s Ready—Almost

Posted by Alyson Gerber On June - 28 - 2012

if you were waiting for a sign Alysons Ready—Almost

Now that I am finishing up my (hmm) fourteenth round of edits, I am finally, almost ready to hand over my middle grade manuscript to my agent—almost.

Well, my manuscript is ready to go. The problem is that I am not. I’ve been fussing over every detail. I want my book to be as close to perfect as possible. What else is new? But even when I’ve nit-picked every single thing, I’m not sure I will be ready to let go. For one thing, it’s really scary. Once I send it off into the world, I am no longer in control. Anything could happen. This does not make me feel calm. This makes me want to pace around a lot, spend my days and nights watching the Gilmore Girls seasons one through seven, eat gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream (with chocolate sprinkles), and pull out my hair.

Luckily, I have the best writing group ever to save me from myself. Not to brag, but I love them and sometimes I don’t have a clue what I would do without them. They are brilliant writers. They give the most incredible feedback. And they make me feel like I’m not alone or the only one who is afraid to fail. Sometimes I think the most important part about critique group is being around other people who get it. Thanks to their encouragement and advice, I started a new project, and I’m really excited about it. So, when I finally find the courage to send in my manuscript, instead of being crazy and taking out my anxiety on my normally very happy life, I will have something else to obsess over. Phew!

Riddhi’s Post-MFA Yo-Yoing

Posted by Riddhi Parekh On June - 27 - 2012

TWB YOYO JUNE 600x383 Riddhis Post MFA Yo YoingYo, yo what’s next?

Now that school’s out, I’m in the mood to play. This applies to my writing as well.

Between you and me, since thesis submission, I haven’t so much as opened a word document — at least not for any “creative writing” purposes (unless To Do lists count). There are many culprits at play: the wonderful weather (really hard to write when you’re out riding a bicycle), an exciting new job, moving into a new apartment, a reunion with the folks, dealing with post-graduate realizations and other life-altering decisions, one of which was to stay back in New York for work experience.

But fret not, I’m just resting my wrists. The writing yo-yo has been ‘sleeping’ but I’m going to ‘walk the dog’ pretty soon. The fine ladies at TWB and the voices in my head will make sure I do!

My summer goal is to wind up an old labor of love that I abandoned a few months ago. Fingers crossed!

Image courtesy stock.xchng

pixel Riddhis Post MFA Yo Yoing
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