January 30, 2012

For the Love of Reading and Writing

I was recently contacted by Cassandra Day, a young fan and aspiring writer, for an interview. You can check out said interview here.

I think it's awesome that tweens and teenagers get so into reading and so into writing. They're developing amazing talents and creating a lifelong friend in reading. My love of reading has been such a gift to me ever since I was little. I loved reading Berenstein Bears and Dr. Seuss and Amelia Bedelia. I could read them for hours. I remember when I was "too old" for those books and raiding my younger siblings' shelves for my old books, just for the nostalgia and pleasure of reading them again.

I devoured Walter Farley and Lloyd Alexander and choose-your-own-adventure stories when I got a little older.

I devoured just about anything I could get my hands on when I got a little older than that.

Today I devour whatever I can when I get a few minutes.

So when a young fan emails me and asks if they can interview me? Of course. If I can do anything to encourage their love of reading and writing, you better believe I'm going to say yes. Because I was one of those kids.

January 26, 2012

"Never Give Up, Never Surrender"

If any of you have seen the hilarious Galaxy Quest (one of my all-time favorite movies, by the way), you'll recognize the quote. And here's what we're dealing with today:

I recently did a Q&A with Danica Page. In that interview, she asked me what I would tell a writer who just wanted to give it all up. It's a poignant question, and one that made me think about my own journey as a writer.

I started writing stories when I was young, but I started this get-published journey about eleven years ago with the dream of finding an agent, being picked up by a publishing house, going on a book tour, you know, fame and riches and all that stuff.

I attended writing conferences, made great connections, met wonderful agents and editors, researched who to send my novel to, and shipped it off. And my grandiose dreams were dashed, big time. Sure, I received some personalized rejection letters, but they were rejection letters, and let's face it: rejection is rejection no matter how lovely the packaging and how kind the wording. Sometimes I think a form rejection is better than a personalized one, just because I had the feeling of "I was this close."

After a year of being rejected, I decided to stop with the self-torture and put writing to the side. I came back to it now and again, but I wasn't in it full force the way I had been. And I was a mommy now and there just wasn't the time as I tried to get my mind wrapped around giving everything to this little infant. But there came a moment here and there when that calmed down, and I got the idea for The Burn, and bam! I had the writing itch again and I slammed into it full-force.

But then I looked at my life and what I wanted. Did I want to have firm deadlines from a publishing house? No. I was pregnant with my second and I was lucky if I could stay awake through the afternoon, more or less write so many thousand words to meet a deadline. Did I want to deal with appearances and book signings and getting out there and marketing? No. I had snot and drool and other assorted bodily fluids on my clothes and was just so exhausted by the end of the day that the idea made me shudder. And the big one:

Was having a best seller really that important to me? Do I need to have an army of publishing experts behind me to make me feel validated?

I'll admit it: I would love to have my name recognized, I would love for masses of people to know about my books, and having a publishing house helps immensely with that. But more importantly, I want people to read my books and have an emotional connection, be entertained. Do I have to write a best seller to be happy? No. I need my husband and my girls to be happy. That's what makes me happy.

So I researched self publishing and ran full tilt at it. Now my books are out there. I've done publicity for my books from my own computer where I don't have to worry if I'm the human Kleenex for the day, and people have bought my books and people have loved them. That was really my goal all along.

Do I feel like I backed away from my goal just because I was rejected? Not at all. I just found the venue that works best for where I am in my life right now.

January 16, 2012

Reading: Elevation vs. Entertainment

I came across this article today, and the further into it I got, the more I couldn't believe what I was reading. Read for yourself and see what you think about it. And please leave a comment. I'm interested to get other people's takes on this.

I had several issues with this article. But the issue I want to address in this post is this: reading is either for elevation or entertainment. It can't be both (which is false in and of itself). And what really bothered me about it was the context: teens who are reading.

Maybe I'm more sensitive to this because I write YA novels, and teens are my audience. But I would argue (forcefully) that teens need to read for entertainment. Not just should, but need. Teens are at that wonderfully beautiful, awkward stage where they aren't children and they aren't adults. They're figuring out what it means to live and they're starting to figure out just who they might want to become. But they're not ready to become it yet. They're still growing up, and having fun doing it.

And it's in these years that they need to develop a love of reading.

Do you think that forcing on teens the classics: Homer, Shakespeare, the other long-dead authors named in the article, is going to teach them a love of reading? I'd say no. There were some classics that I enjoyed in my teen years, but most of the ones forced upon me in school made me gag. I've come to love them now, but back then? I think part of why I hated them was because I had to read them for school.

I'm not saying classics don't have a place in schools. They must. Using the classics helps teenagers learn to dissect books, find the themes and deeper meanings they might not have seen themselves, learn to delve deeper into what they're reading so they're not just passive participants.

But should we go so far as to say they can only read for elevation and not entertainment? No. If they're trained to think that the only books worth reading are those that "elevate," then they will never develop a life-long love of reading. I think that life-long love is a thousand times more important than to say you read the Odyssey. I mean honestly, who cares? The life-long love is what will allow that teenager, when he grows up, to be able to read just about anything he comes across and understand it and learn from it.

Oh, and Shakespeare wasn't writing to elevate. He was writing to entertain the masses. Just saying.

January 10, 2012

A Sneak Peek

For me. I guess I should start off with that. Sorry if I got any hopes up :)

I just got the first concept for the Bound cover, and I will say it's gorgeous. My graphic designer, Jen Foxley, created something that made me smile. Not too much more I can ask for than that! We'll probably have a couple revisions back and forth for the next week, but as soon as the final is ready, then you'll be the first to see. Well, my husband and kiddos will be the first. Then you.

And in other Bound news, I'll be finishing up my rewrites today. And there was much rejoicing! But not too much, because then I'll send it off to my beta reader again and see what she has to say. And then there will be edits. Many edits. And then formatting. There's still a lot of work to do. But I love it.

January 04, 2012

Win a Signed Paperback of The Burn!

So to say Happy New Year to everyone, I'm doing a giveaway. That's right, the very first one on my blog. And what could you win, you might ask? A signed copy of The Burn! So if you're interested, here's what you do: 

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Giveaway closes January 31. Good luck!