Happy People – Happy Writers

images.jpg

Did you know that you’re more likely to write, and enjoy writing, if you’re happy? That’s right. Let’s face it, with work and people, being happy isn’t always the first state-of-mind we’re in. It doesn’t help coming home to a messy house, either. Well, you may not be able to control everything in your life, but here are two things you can do:

Read – That’s right, and I don’t just mean at home. Did you ever read when you were a kid to escape? Well, bring that same principle into your life even now. Keep a book with you at all times. If you can snatch a few lines here and there, then by all means, do it. If you slowly work around your book (then work won’t seem quite so… workish; you’ll be reading a book 2 minutes here, 5 there, and 30 for lunch, etc…) and while you’re still being productive, you’ll be surprised just how much reading you can get done. Believe me, your day will feel a lot more subdued (and if you’re in a stressful environment, this is a good thing).

download-1.jpg

Clean – Yep, just do it. Clean that house. If you spend a good weekend, or week, (whatever it takes) to whip that place you call home into shape, then do it. Forfeit the fun weekend and get things decluttered and put up. My motto: Everything has a place, everything is in it’s place – then clean it. Maintain this all of the time by doing little “sweeps” at the end of the day before going to bed; is there anything you left out that needs to be put up? Put it up. By keeping a clean atmosphere, coming home will be a delight. It’ll be relaxing and you’ll have free time to write because you’re not in a messy environment; Clean house, clean mind. 01 home office.jpg

Book Review 4: Pretty Dead

This is the book review for “Pretty Dead” by Lia Francesca Block. I am still a newbie when it comes to making YouTube videos, so please pardon the poor lighting and sound quality. Nonetheless, here it is:

#PrettyDead #yabooks #ya #bookreview #writingtip

Lia’s website: http://www.francescaliablock.com/

Here is a better book review for you to enjoy:

Book Review 3: Paper Towns

paper-towns2.jpg

Summary: “Paper Towns” by John Green was an enjoyable book about a boy named Quentin and his crush, Margo. They grew up together only to later drift apart in high school. Quentin, however, has never forgotten the strong, independent Margo. One night, she makes a visit to his house, asking for help as she takes revenge on her ex-friends. Quentin, a quiet boy, goes alone for an adventure filled night. Just when things are starting to look up for him, Margo goes missing. Most of the family accepts this, but Quentin can’t. Deciding to ditch prom, Quentin and his friends go and search for her, following small clues she left behind. SPOILERS from here on: Turns out that Margo used a paper town, a place on a map that didn’t really exist, to writings in a dark abandoned building to leave clues about her whereabouts. I’m not sure why she left these. In the end, after a long and hilarious ride in a mini-van (because even though they agreed to ditch prom, some of them, like Ben, really, really want to make it to prom) they speed as fast as they can to find Margo, and actually succeed. Only, the thing is, Margo didn’t want to be found. But, Quentin gets a kiss and feels that he has grown in some way after resigned to the fact that he must let her go.

Response: There’s a really funny scene during one of the pitstops; “Radar revs the engine as if to say hustle, and we are running through the parking lot, Ben’s robe flowing in the wind so that he looks vaguely like a dark wizard…” (Green, 254). That really cracked me up. As a teacher certified in English, I really enjoyed the literature expressed in this book; “I grabbed some cold lasagna from the fridge for lunch and went to my room with Walt. It was the Penguin Classics version of the first edition of Leaves of Grass” (Green, 115). I also enjoyed the paper town and the black Santa collection from Radar’s parents. I suppose this was supposed to be a coming of age story, but it didn’t really feel that way. Only on the very last page did Green suggest any growth, and I didn’t fully buy it; Quentin was just forced to let her go. At least he got a kiss.

Themes: Heavy themes include: The ingenuity of literature, as well as being lost and not wanting to be found.

Audience: I think high schoolers would really enjoy this book the most, but that it is readable by middle-graders as well as adults, as most books really are. I’d like to see this in a 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders hands.

Cons: I hated the cursing and use of the God’s name in vain. Teens might talk like that, but I feel that there are other ways to express reality as it is without using God’s name that way. It only encourages it. I’m a Christian; it makes since I feel this way.

Lookout: Again, I really enjoyed the use of literature; it inspires kids to check it out for themselves without the pressure of a English teacher. Green also used diversity in this book and I’ll be on the lookout for that, as well, in my future YA readings.

Links: http://www.johngreenbooks.com/

Teen Book Review:

#ya #bookreviews #amreading #yabooks

 

Post 8: And the Award Goes To…

Ever see those shiny yellow stars on a book that looks something like this:

the realm of possibility_0.jpg

Yeah, me neither. Ok, just kidding. Turns out there are many awards that a book can win, such as the Printz, YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction, ALEX, YA Choice, Margaret A. Edwards, and much, much more. Did you know that when publishers expect a book to do really well that designers will often craft a cover in such a way that there is space for the award (a place that one would look well) just in case it wins? A majority of the available awards can be found at

Awards and Criteria:

Printz: “The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature” (YALSA). They have a Teen Book Finder Database where you can search for award winning books via list name, year, author, and genre. Here is a 2018 winner: (I really like the cover.)

YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction: “…honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 – Oct. 31 publishing year. The winner is announced annually at the ALA Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December” (YALSA).

Alex Awards: “…are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12-18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year’s publishing. These awards can also be found in the “Teen Book Finder Database” linked above. Here is one of the 2018 winners: (Also very alluring.)

YA Choice: “Since 1986, the Young Adults’ Choices project has developed an annual list of new books that will encourage adolescents to read. The books are selected by the readers themselves…” (International Literacy Association). There is a fact sheet, a call for submissions, a list template, and online application form. Here is one of their winning titles:

Margaret A. Edwards Award: “…honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature… It recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world” (YALSA). 2017 Winner below: (This cover makes me envious.)

The Truth About Forever

How to access them: Most awards can be found on the YALSA homepage under “Awards and Grants.”

It’s nice that authors get recognized for their contributions. Now, not only can I appreciate that author, but I can appreciate them a little more than I otherwise might have. It’s a nice pat on the back, but it is great for promotion as well as for librarian’s and parent’s when trying to decide on which books to purchase/read. I know that there are many awards given each year with many different criterion. If you or I want a good book with specific qualities, all we have to do is look them up and read the criteria and review of the author and their work. From now on, when I pick up a book with some kind of shiny sticker, or blurb in the back that mentions an award, I will check out the award’s criteria. I will also know that I have a reputable book in my hand that I can read and share with others. In all, awards are an added perk to authors, librarians, parents, and many more.

#amreading #YALSA #bookreviews

 

Post 9: I don’t Like Poetry, but Children Do

Do you write poetry,

Neither do I,

In fact if I were forced to read it,

I’d probably die.

 

Poetry is for some,

adults here, and children there,

but as for me,

I really couldn’t care.

 

I read a book called “Booked”

and it was neat, though in verse,

about a boy who played soccer,

who’s parents got divorced.

 

Books like that are good for kids,

it makes poetry seem less confusing

and still tells a story,

and therefore is amusing.

 

But I still do not like poetry, not here or there, not anywhere.

 

I’m no poet, no Robert Frost

or even a John Ciardi,

but even I know,

poetry can cause a party…

in one’s head…

What does this MEAN?

Why are letters rEpEating?

Shouldn’t it rhyme… all of the time?

 

Maybe I should change my mind,

maybe the imagery could be good,

if only I could get the hang of poetry,

then maybe I could.

 

Maybe kids like to hear a rhyme,

see smelly socks stink somewhere,

or even hear the thunder go BOOM,

or a plane go ZOOM.

 

Maybe Robert Frost isn’t for me, or you,

Maybe I should read some of Fisher,

about horses’s tails swishing,

wait, what rhymes with fisher?

 

Maybe I should change my mind,

and read about how poetry loves to play

with words and exclamation marks,

…maybe it’ll make my day.

 

Maybe I should read some of Shel Silverstein,

or William Jay Smith,

throw the rules out the window,

alongside Tracy K. Smith.

 

Maybe poetry isn’t so bad,

I might even try to write some of it.

No, I still don’t like dissecting,

So I’ll stick with Chick Lit.

*With this said, you might not be surprised that I’m not completely committed to poetry, however, I can still see the value and benefits of sharing it with children. If you write poetry, or are looking for good books on poetry, here are some things to keep in mind:

Poetry that rhymes is generally appreciated more amongst the younger crowd. Think of elementary schools. Though, I like that kind of poetry more than any, despite being an adult.

Poetry that doesn’t rhyme and is without any kind of rules is called free verse and is generally more appreciated by adults and some high schoolers.

Most people think you have to dissect poetry and feel forced to find some deeper meaning. When they do this, they miss the point and become stressed and burned out with poetry. Those are the people who generally hate it. However, if you dish out some poetry for the sake of enjoying it (and I’d recommend starting with children’s poetry and working my way up) you might find that you don’t have to be keen on all of it’s conventions and still get some joy out of it.

As a writer, however, it’s going to be useful to you if you incorporate things like: assonance, personification, rhymes and rhythm, as well as hyperbole and onomatopoeia. Tutorials on YouTube cover this and make writing much more fun.

Here is a sample of a cute and fun poem that you can emulate to get the hang of writing poetry, or finding quality poetry books. Click Mommy Slept Late to find a larger version.

youread-spread-final.jpg

Writing poetry, or reading it, is a form of expression and even though I prefer to express myself in other ways, if you want to try writing or reading poetry, besides starting small, I’d recommend researching and reading others to get a good feel for it.

In the context of poetry for young adults, or the YA audience, it helps if it’s a narrative; it’s key to tell a story. Just as the story, “Booked” by Kwame Alexander told a story, your’s should too.

Be relatable. The point of poetry besides expressing one’s self is to relate to others. If you’re looking for YA poetry, or creating it, then consider these questions: Does the poem make sense? Does it address modern day issues and conflicts? Will it engage the reader? Is it age appropriate? Most eighth graders won’t appreciate Emily Dickinson – that’s generally for an older audience.

Does your title and choice of words appeal to readers? Are they familiar with those words? Don’t forget that vocabulary is an important aspect of to which children you will and will not reach.

Are you using imagery? Imagery is important in ALL writing. Make sure they can visualize it. It’ll make for a far more enjoying and satisfying read.

Keep in mind that there are various forms of poetry; try your hand at various types. Try reading various types to kids and see what they like. Take their opinions seriously.

*I will say this: While I don’t generally have poetry as one of my go-to’s, I still enjoy and appreciate the way we can play with language. I will be keeping an eye out for good poetry and remember that it can be used to entertain, to teach, and express ourselves – these are the key elements I will be looking for when evaluating poetry.

As always, I hope this helps, if not, send me a yelp… Okay, see why I don’t do poetry?

Anyway, happy writing!

Post 7: Should you Use Literary Elements and Devices in Your Writing?

Okay, okay, so I admit, do you really want to write with literary elements and devices in mind? I mean, isn’t that like… high school stuff? True, it is; it’s also college stuff. But, turns out, there are really good reasons to use it in your novels. Find out why below:

i.chzbgr.jpg

Here is an in-depth look at 19 elements and devices to use in your writing: From what they are to why it’s good to use them.

An antagonist is the person or force of nature that opposes the main character. This is SO important. If your story doesn’t have this, there won’t be much to stop or hinder your main character, and this leads to a boring story. Make sure you have one, or even better, some.

Character is the main person of interest in a movie, play, or book. Some books have animals as characters, or even nature. Unless it’s non-fiction, it’s pretty important.

A story without conflict is a lost cause. Conflict is any disagreement or obstacle stopping your character achieving their goal. Always ask yourself, per each and every scene, “Where is the heat?” In other words, where is the conflict? If you don’t have that in your story, more than likely, no, guaranteed, your readers won’t want to keep… wait for it… reading.

The way a story makes you feel is the mood. Do you feel sad, happy, tense? This is mood. Does your story have one? If not, make sure you get one. Tone is the sound (inferred if reading) of the author: does the author sound joyful, professional, sarcastic? Tone is easier to pick up in first person fiction and non-fiction. Generally in fantasy, I like for the author to be invisible. So I’m not too worried about the tone.

If you don’t have a plot, your character might can save the story. Both are very important. The plot is simple and goes like this: Beginning (current status quo), rising action (due to some kind of conflict), more rising action, point of no return (it’s fight or flight), climax, because things can’t get any worse ((do you see all of the conflict here?)), and falling action, okay, things are cooling off, and resolution (new status quo). Make sure to have all of the following for a cohesive story and try not to veer off so as not to confuse the readers.

Who do you root for? We all need someone to root for or there’s no point in reading your story. Who can we relate to? Who is this story following? That is your protagonist. Have one.

Another device very important in your story is the setting. Are you reading this on a bus right now? In front of your monitor in your office or bedroom? Are there white curtains, a brown or white desk and a purring cat beside your fluffy slippers. (Let’s hope not or that’d be super surreal) but the point is, what is your surroundings like? That is setting. If a reader can’t see the setting, it’s easy to get confused and the world becomes less real and less intriguing and relatable.

Do you keep coming back to the same problem in your story? If so, good, that would make sense, after all, but what about something else, something a little deeper. Is there a lesson or moral you’re trying to impart, or is your character constantly on the verge of discovering an important lesson? Likely, that deeper meaning or lesson is your theme. This helps unite a story.

I needed a break from the text, so here’s another picture:

1763102635.png

That one cracked me up just a bit.

Moving on:

Ever wanted to say something without literally saying it? Did you use another story that highly resembled the one you were trying to tell? That’s an allegory, a story that uses characters or symbols to represent the real-life story.

People use this all the time when they’re trying to be sly about something or, more innocently, when they want to give reference to something they’re discussing or writing about, and that is allusions. An allusion is when you refer or reference a person, place, thing, or event. It can be a neat tactic to employ in your writing.

Archetypes are things like good vs. evil, a story wherein your character goes on a journey or quest. It is when you compare and contrast the natural world against the technological world. These are all things that are universal and understood by all that will always be a part of story-telling. More than likely you will develop this without really knowing it.

Okay, this next one is a no-no. But, don’t save your character from out of nowhere. Don’t have someone else solve your characters problem, nor any type of force of nature. Your character alone can save/solve their problems (in order to grow). If not, that’s called Deus ex machina, “God in the machine.”

I could eat a horse, or, it’s raining cats and dogs is an example of a hyperbole. Hyperbole’s are useful in showing us just how much your character feels or longs for something, etc. Depending on how creative you are with your exaggerations, the more delightful the story becomes for the reader.

A story will be quite bland if it does not have imagery. Think of this when you write: What do you See, Feel, Smell, Hear, and Taste? Make your readers experience them by being very detailed in description. Ex.: “Elaina sat in the booth, waiting for her food to be delivered. She could smell the savory battered chicken and seasoned fries from the table beside her. The biscuits, soft and shining with butter were warm and mouthwatering.”

We all use metaphor, though I sometimes think people get a little intimidated by that word. Basically, if I say, “You are thorny rose of red velvet.” I am saying flatly that you are something, or that something is something, and as a result am comparing you to that rose that can prick you despite it’s beauty. The difference of a simile compared to a metaphor is that instead of saying you are something I am saying you are like something. For example, “You are like a red, velvet rose with thorns.” While you don’t want to use very common ones, as that’s overdone and often void of deep affect at that point, making up your own can be very powerful and aesthetic. You should try it. It can make writing more fun.

Some books, if you’ve noticed, have symbols on the front, like a symbol, a motif is a central idea through a book or set of books that the author keeps alluding to. A symbol on the cover of a book of an engraved sword could be a motif for a family that continually kills by that sword therefore reaping upon themselves whatever comes as a result. Basically, it is a theme guides the arch of the book and is therefore reoccurring.

Point of view is a powerful tool to convey the type of book you’re aiming for. With first person p.o.v it’s easy to get in the head of your character whereas third person is dependent on how much the narrator tells you. Second person narratives exist but or less occurrent or desirable in my opinion. Books in first person are more prudent for reaching a contemporary fiction YA audience whereas fantasy fiction in third person is more effective. Check out various books in various categories to get a feel for the right p.o.v. for you.

I don’t really use symbols in my books, but if I did, I’d have a reoccurring image that stood for an important idea or event. That’s what a symbol is, and symbols can be very effective in conveying a message.

And there you have it. Try some of these out for more quality writing.

As always, happy writing!

#amwriting #yabooks #writingtips #writerslife

Post 6: How to use Adolescent Development in your Writing

If you write for young adults, it’s important to know a little bit about how they develop so that your book is relevant. So lets get to know our readers:

GettyImages-513942136-1024x683.jpg

There are many changes that adolescents go through that come in the form of physical change, intellectual change, and changing needs.

  1. We all know about this one: puberty. Tweens turning into adult means there is one huge question circling in their head, which is, “Am I normal?” From developing physically (chests for the ladies, voices for the men, etc) to the time in which it takes to develop, it can be difficult for teens to know if their own transformation is normal, or even happening. That is why books that focus on such elements can be both assuring and enlightening. Self-reflection in a book will always both grow and captivate your readers.
  2. Who hasn’t heard something like this > Adolescent’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re 25. Well, who knows for sure, but with this comes the concept of concrete thinking verses abstract thinking. The younger you are, the more concrete your thinking supposedly is, which means right is right, and wrong is wrong. The more developed you are, the more you are able to think abstractly. This is important when it comes to understanding theme and other important actions on the behalf of your characters. If you’re looking to address certain issues, think about the audience you’re writing for and the possible affects that your writing will, or will not, have. For many, as they grow and develop, this adolescent phase is where they decide their own morality as well as other philosophical ideas. Will your writing challenge their thinking?
  3. Ever-changing needs: As those middle graders and high schoolers grow and climb the cliff that is adolescence, it is important that they have a safe place, a place to belong, and for others to show interest in them. It’s something to think about when you’re writing. In “Booked” by Kwame Andrews, Mr. Mac is a librarian who takes an interest in the main character and becomes a source of support. While a real adolescent may have a difficult time finding someone to cheer them on, they may just find them in your book, as a good YA book can do.
  4. Adolescents grow as readers: So we know that reading can develop their empathy; believe me, this is a good thing. Most readers read for the delight, or joy, of reading in part because we recognize a part of ourselves in them, or even others in them. Not only can we begin to understand ourselves, we can begin to understand those around us better. Plus, let’s face it, I really, really wouldn’t have minded getting out of my high school Chemistry class to board the Hogwarts express; it’s vicarious living at it’s finest, and people, especially teens, need that. And then, sometimes your readers just want to really enjoy some lovely writing. So when you put that pen to paper, or finger to key, think about what kind of effect you’re having, and take some pride in your work; it very may well be helping someone.

Personally, knowing these things for me as a writer is very informative, but as a reader and someone evaluating YA books, it’s helpful to me for the same reason it is helpful to me as a writer. I know what it takes to reach young adults. I will know the type of book(s) to recommend to someone I see struggling. Keeping this in mind as I read will be a really good tool to keep in my arsenal. Books that don’t do this, I won’t be as likely to support. As always, I hope this helps and,

Happy Writing!

#amwriting #amreading #yabooks #ala