Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic: What was your favorite book as a child?

Answer via comments, your own blog, tumblr, twitter (hashtag #roadtripwednesday), anywhere!

Some of our answers:

-Sumayyah: Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfield & Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
-Sarah: The Giver by Lois Lowry & Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
-Steph: Walter Farley's Black Stallion series & Albert Payson Terhune's Sunnybank Collies books
-Kate: The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder & From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
-Kristin: Anne of Green Gables (series) by L.M. Montgomery & Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
-Kaitlin: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman & Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

(yes, we can't even follow our own instructions and each had multiple favorites...) 

I'm Still Here

I have stopped taking part in the “diversity problem in children’s lit” conversation. Diversity in the literature I read (mostly YA) matters to me a lot. But the same conversation crops up every six months or so, and the same concerns get voiced, and sometimes the statistics changed (in 2013 there were more books with POC than books with speaking animals, so yay, I guess), but overall it’s too much. It’s frustrating and tiring to have your community never be listened to and then watch while other people debate the merits of offering you full representation in a genre where you invest a lot of money and love and time. Eventually, I kind of just stopped.

But I have a lot invested in this conversation, both as a reader and a writer. I’m a scholar invested in recovering the diversity of our past. But part of the reason I decided to just write books instead of talking about how we need diverse literature is because no one was listening to me. Not the specific me, but the me that encapsulates a community that is often not represented (or represented well or respectfully) in literature. This is, I think, at the center of what is wrong about the ways we discuss inclusiveness and diversity. By and large those conversations are being taken over by people who benefit a lot from the current system in place. It’s an important conversation to have, everyone wants to put in their own two cents, everyone wants to boost the issue so more people can weigh in.

But here’s the thing: your opinion doesn’t actually matter.

If you are part of the overrepresented, privileged group, your opinion doesn’t matter.

I think, for most people, this is a really hard thing to hear. No one wants to think that they should be quiet and listen, or that they should give up their platform, or stop advocating for inclusivity and diversity. Your opinion is probably valid and positive and rooted in a place of deep compassion.

But your opinion, and the ways you voice that opinion, and the space your voice takes? Those things are not ahistorical. They are happening in a place where historically your voices (your straight voice, your white voice, your able bodied voice, your cisgendered voice) are privileged over ours. You automatically get boosted over us because of both distance (you are distanced from the situation therefore, the perception goes, you can be more lucid and unbiased), and authenticity (you have seen first hand or you are intimately acquainted with the system or or or). And though it might not seem like it, though this is not your intention, you are exacerbating a historical problem: we cannot speak for ourselves. We are not good enough to speak for ourselves, or we are not in these spaces therefore we cannot speak for ourselves.

That thing that just clicked for you over the weekend? Someone from that group has been living that for a really long time. This oppression you suddenly seem really fired up over and want to dismantle? Yeah, there’s someone on the ground who’s been doing it for ages. Those kids you wanna save? That opinion you wanna voice? This issue you wanna spotlight? Done. Done. Done. Trust me. We got it.

There’s this weird thing that happens when we talk about the overwhelming whiteness of publishing and it assumes that because publishing is overwhelmingly white that the only people we should ask about fixing this are the white people in the structure. Or that because you can’t see us, we’re not talking. And it ignores first that most of us have set up our own groups and communities to talk this out, because we’re safest among people who understand the macro and microaggressions we experience day to day without judgement or fear. And second that we have been having this conversation for a long, long time.

Think about it this way:

There’s a group of us. We’re either whispering quietly because we don’t want to upset anyone, or we’re just out of your sight so you can’t really hear us. And then, all of a sudden, somehow you hear us or someone leaves the group and tells you or someone voices their frustrations to you. And instead of listening, or providing them a space to boost that voice so people in other rooms will hear them, you walk back to their private room and start shouting. And people in other rooms hear you and they say ‘wow this is so great I’ve never thought of this before’ and they keep passing it on.

But we’ve been having this conversation the entire time.

If you think your platform or voice or space is big enough that it can make a difference, then it is absolutely necessary to consider turning it over, however temporarily, to someone from the community you want to speak for. That is useful. I’m not advocating for silence, but for a restructuring of how we think about those of us underrepresented in the young adult publishing community. Instead of thinking of us as people that need to be lifted up or spoken for, consider us equals and the people who should be driving this conversation, instead of just grateful to sit at the table.

The Shining Places

I’ll be honest: I haven’t gotten much writing done in the last while.

I'm a stay at home parent to an almost-three year old, so my days are always busy, but the last few weeks have been full. I've been getting by in the stretch of time between my daughter’s bedtime and my own, when it’s available, wearily working on the same conversation between two characters, one tiny bunch of words at a time, asking myself the same questions over and over: Is this line actually necessary? Would the story suffer at all if it wasn't there? Because if I'm only managing a few words per day, I would rather not have to delete them. What am I writing towards right now? Is this line of dialogue moving the scene in the right direction, or am I going round in circles? Because it's easy to lose my sense of direction when I'm writing small amounts sporadically. Especially if I'm tired.

Sure, in an ideal world, I wouldn't be writing when I was tired. But sometimes if you rule out writing when you're tired, you rule out writing completely, as most writers with small children would tell you. The internet is full of advice on how to maximize your writing output, most of which assumes that you're getting enough sleep, that you can lay the rest of your life aside for a long stretch of time and write endlessly. There's not so much advice on how to deal with writing when you're muddling through, writing round the edges of everything else because there is no other option. Yet there are writers with day jobs, writers with more kids than me, writers with day jobs and kids, writers dealing with challenging life circumstances, writers navigating levels of complicatedness I could not even imagine, just in order to write words.

But there is no sacred time or space or circumstance which will make you a writer. There is no minimum number of words. There is no ideal moment. There is only this one, only now. Sometimes, if you look hard, you might see possibilities. Other times everything else is so overwhelming that you can't see anything, but you stay watchful anyway, in case one sneaks up on you later, a space of time to write in, a place tiny but shining, like the small patch of water in the distance where the sunlight dances on the surface of the sea.

And sometimes it really is such a small thing, this shining place. The stretch of time between my daughter going to bed and my energy running out. The length of a lunch break. The length of a bedtime story. The wait at a bus stop. The unpredictable space between a toddler's interruptions. And sometimes I am so tired, or the space is so short, that I'm lucky even to manage a hundred words inside this space. Or ten words. And there is no way to maximize them, because they're already written at the very edge of what's possible.

There might only be ten words, but ten words mean that I'm still writing. That this story is still moving. That there is a direction and I'm still heading in it, even if I've only managed one step.

When the time came for me to start this blog post, I was feeling grumpy and stuck. I made myself a cup of coffee, gathered up my laptop and notebook, and sneaked into the bedroom. A second later, my daughter was crying outside the door. I wasn't the only adult around, but no one else was immediately available, so I let her in. She plopped down on the bed next to me and asked why I had gone into the bedroom, why it was raining outside, why my headphones were beside me but I wasn't wearing them, why there was a book underneath my laptop. I did my best to answer her patiently, without scowling, without grumping at all the writing I wasn't doing. After a while, she snuggled in close and buried her face in my side. And I glimpsed it, briefly, the shining place. The chance at words.

So I wrapped my arm around my daughter, and I wrote.

Field Trip Friday: April 17, 2014


- YA Highway is one of Writer Digest's Top 101 Blogs for Writers! We're excited and humbled to receive this honor and hope to continue to be a good resource for you, our fabulous readers!

- Last week's many conversations and posts about diversity in kidlit carried over to this week with ReedPOP, the panel organizers for BookCon, issueing a non-apology for their all white, middle-aged male "Kids Authors That Dazzle" panel. Author Justina Ireland writes an open letter to conference planners telling them to quit using the equivalent of "I have black friends" and stop organizing diversity panels. "There's a lot of good talk but there's still no action," notes author Ellen Oh in her piece We Are Still Not Doing Enough for Diversity in Kidlit, while author Lamar Giles says forget being the change, don't BS the change. EW's Shelf Life talks to publishing professionals about why there are so few books featuring diverse main charactersMaya Prasad interviews author Sherri L. Smith about how we can achieve the change we need in the second post in her Diversity Solutions series, and Daniel Jose Older powerfully discusses the effects of race and power in publishing. Finally, the lovely Kaye M. kicks off a new blog series focusing on diversity and midlist authors.


- It's not all drowning in tears and bourbon being a writer. You might take a writing class with James Franco or even win a National Book Award...playing this How to be a Writer game.

- "These narratives portrayed alcoholism and drug use as spectacular and sensationalistic but also as having a definitive end: either the person died or the person got clean." The Ism and The Alcohol by Lauren Quinn dissects drugs, literature and the addition narrative. (via Corey Ann Haydu)

- E. Lockhart writes about taking herself seriously versus being taken seriously by the institutions that mock the feminine.

- "Women...have wounds: broken hearts and broken bones and broken lungs. How do we talk about these wounds without glamorizing them? Without corroborating an old mythos that turns female trauma into celestial constellations worthy of worship?" Settle in for the Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain, a glorious, hour-long look at how authors write, sensationalize, get right and get wrong the wounded woman. (via sarah mccarry)

- Special Needs in Strange Worlds: Elizabeth Bear on Writing Disabilities.


- Mike Jung writes poignantly about "the issue of loving a book, really loving it, while also feeling genuinely troubled by it."

- The Not So Horrible Consequences of Reading Banned Books notes that "a new study of Texas teens found no connection between reading edgy books and mental health issues or delinquent behavior." Imagine that.

- Teacher Mrs. Anderson surveys the girls in her English class to discover which book characters they do and don't see themselves in, what they'd like to see more of in books, whether they've seen characters in required reading that stick out to them, and more.

- Debbie Reese brought Arigon Starr's Super Indian Comics to our attention and it makes for superb reading.

- Friend of YAH Kelly Jensen reviews Julie Halpern's The F-It List and wonders whether some readers can't handle "positive portrayal of girls embracing sex and doing so without apology and without holding back on being crude and, at times, obscene."

- "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." ~ One Hundred Years of Solitude. Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez passes away at the age of 87.

- There is a huge narrative surrounding the failing independent bookstore, but NY Mag gives us a look at six that are thriving and how they're managing the feat. Yes! Go forth and buy books!

- It's possible you didn't get tight-chested and glassy-eyed while watching the If I Stay movie trailer this week. It's also possible you don't have a heart. As for me and mine, GIVE ME THIS MOVIE ALREADY.


- Wake up and sell your book! Seven Brilliant Ways Authors Build Buzz--That Anyone Can Use. Yeah, I'm working on that whole "get on Oprah's good list" thing, too.

- In response to Elle Magazine's suggested wardrobe for The Novelist, Lynne Kelly describes The Author's Wardrobe, For Real. I'm on board with Jo Whittemore--my author superhero blanket cape is regularly draped over my shoulders as I write. Isn't yours?

- Chuck Wendig has Ten Things [He'd] Like to Say to Young Writers. So sit up and pay attention, youths! (We love you, youths.)

- Dan Wells and a whole slew of authors are putting together an anthology to raise awareness of mental illness and to show support for Dan's brother, Robison Wells.


- Congrats to Adventures in YA Publishing for hitting 2 million page views! To celebrate, they're giving away 20 incredible prize packs. Go forth and enter.


- Hug a Dungeonmaster today. Annalee Newitz discusses how We Won the War on Dungeons & Dragons.

- "We are both birthed from resilience." Teenagers Amina Iro and Hannah Halpern own the stage at the Brave New Voices 2013 Quarterfinals. (via Sajidah)

- In more awesome teen girls slash where is the book about THIS superhero news, a 13-year old eagle huntress in Mongolia gives us a glimpse of her world.

- Muggles need not apply. But for the rest of us, Hogwarts courses are now online! Grab your wands, witches, you're late for class.

- The vegetation on Kepler-186f would grow in shades of yellow and orange but that probably won't stop people from wanting to inhabit Earth's newly discovered "cousin."

- We prefer promoting teens who do great things. In the case of the girl who tweeted a bomb threat at American Airlines, consider this an advisory, do-not-do tale.

-  Catherine Cleary Wolters, the real life inspiration for the character Alex on Orange is the New Black, speaks out about her relationship with Piper Kerman for the first time.

- I know teenagers who use maybe...three of these terms regularly? I don't know what that says about me or about this article on 23 Words Teenagers Love To Use and What They Really Mean.


- They're all yours, horror lovers. The most gruesome sentences found on Wikipedia.

- Going in for a new haircut anytime soon? This guide to finding your face shape will surely help you discover the most flattering style.

- You could wonder how and why bunnies became a symbol for Easter (huh?) or you could just look at these terrifying vintage Easter bunny photos and call it good.

- Hilary Clinton is going to be a grandma!

- A $20,000AUD party and he won't take the sunglasses off because they're famous.

Have a great weekend, but try not to break anything. <3 Kristin

Writing Horror: Scary Writing Prompt Game #16

Happy Thursday, Spookies!

Welcome to another round of the scary writing prompt game. Again, here's how it works: I'll announce the prompt, then you guys post your response in the comment section. At the beginning of each round, I'll share my favorite bits from the previous month's entries before announcing the next prompt. At the end of the year there will be a spooky prize drawing for two lucky winners. *All* participants are automatically entered to win!

Last month's prompt followed Hailey and Ben as they embarked on a first date in the woods, only to find a mysterious note taped to a tree. Was somebody following them? Did one of them put it there? The answers provided were equally different and awesome, and a certain snippet from Samantha's entry packed an especially twisty punch:

Hailey grabbed Ben's hand and began pulling him back the way they came. They walked a couple of feet and stopped. Ben looked up at the trees. The birds stopped singing and the sky became dark. Everything around them was still. Hailey squeezed his wrist and backed into him. He saw what she was looking at. A cloaked figure appeared in the distance.

"No, no, not now. Not now." Hailey whispered as she keep backing up.

"Hailey, what's happening?" Ben was barely able to get the words out.

The figure seemed to float towards them.

"I'm sorry Ben. I'm so sorry." Hailey cried.

"I've come to collect what I am owed." The voice seemed to come all around them.

"I don't understand. Please, Hailey what is happening."

"Run," Hailey whispered.

They both turned and took off through the woods.

"Hailey, I can't keep up." Ben screamed.

She looked behind her in time to see Ben trip over a tree root that seemed to appear out of the ground. The root began to wrap itself around Ben.

"Help" he screamed reaching out for Hailey, but she just stood there not moving. "I'm sorry" she sounded defeated. "I tried not to like you. It's my curse. I can't escape my faith and neither can you."

Great job, Samantha! And a special shout out to and Lucy Belll for their own kick-ass entries.


This Month's Prompt:

They had only just gotten the campfire going when the sun went down.

"This isn't as fun as I thought it'd be," Jeremy complained for the third time in fifteen minutes. "I thought we'd be a little closer to other people, or at least a road..."

"Dude." Kayla stood up from where she was crouching in front of the fire and dropped the last piece of wood into the growing flames. "What do you think camping is, exactly? Parking in a dirt lot next to a bunch of other jerks and cooking hot dogs on a nasty grill that's bolted to the ground? Yeah, no. Stop complaining already, Jeremy. Enjoy the privacy and the peace."

"Whenever I went camping as a kid there were at least bathrooms!" Jeremy said. "I have no interest in walking half a mile into the forest every time I need to go."

"This coming from the one of us that can pee standing up," Kayla smirked. "Also, if there were bathrooms, it wasn't really camping."

"Yes it was!" Jeremy protested. "We slept outside. In tents."

"Yeah, tents set up in a dirt parking lot, not nature."

"I feel kind of guilty," Elise piped up from the lawn chair she'd parked in front of the fire. She lifted the hood of her sweatshirt over her head and shivered. "It's my fault Jeremy didn't know what he was getting into. I never told him that we were camping in the ridge, or that we'd have to get to the site by canoe."

"Yeah," Jeremy said with a sigh. "Thanks for that."

"Camping is the most fun this way," Kayla promised as she set up the rest of the lawn chairs and started passing out the supplies for s'mores. Jeremy sat down in one of the free seats, then shoved the end of his s'mores stick through both of the giant marshmallows in his hand.

After making their way through half the bag of marshmallows and an entire board of sausage and crackers with mustard, everybody was relaxed and even Jeremy couldn't deny he was having a great time. Before too long they ran out of firewood, and everybody made their way into the pitch-black forest to gather more, using the light of their cell phones to try and make their way.
morgueFile free photos--image by BlackRenard

"What type of wood are we looking for?" Jeremy asked as he squinted at the ground. Even with the cell phone, it was dark.

"Just any sort of branches or dry wood," Kayla said. She already had three pieces tucked under her arm, of course. "Just nothing damp or--" she cut off and looked over her shoulder.

"What's the matter?" Jeremy asked.

"I thought I heard someone talking back there." Kayla frowned. "But I'm pretty sure Elise is somewhere in the other direction."

"What?" Jeremy held his cell phone in the direction that Kayla had heard the voice, but it was useless. "You had better be kidding me."

"Hold on a second," Kayla said, and stepped away into the darkness. "I can still hear it. I think it might be Elise..."

"Kayla, wait." Jeremy was starting to panic a little bit. He hadn't been paying attention when they wandered away from their campsite, because he assumed he would just follow Kayla back. "I'm gonna get lost if you leave me here."

But there came no reply. Jeremy spun all around, looking for any sign of their dying camp fire, but only saw the solid outlines of pines. "Kayla?"

Somewhere ahead of him, Jeremy heard the crunch of gently snapping twigs. Someone was walking toward him. "Kayla?" Jeremy called out, chilled to his bone. "Kayla, is that you?"


Release the Hellhounds!!

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic: Tell us an author who inspires you.

Answer via comments, your own blog, tumblr, twitter, anywhere! (Note: we're adjusting the twitter hashtag to #roadtripwednesday so as to avoid overlap with other hashtags and make it easier to see your responses.)

Some of our answers:

Steph: Kobo Abe
Kate: Laurie Halse Anderson
Sumayyah: NK Jemisin
Amy: Shirley Jackson
Kaitlin: Garth Nix
Leila: Melina Marchetta

YA Authors on Instagram

I adore Instagram. In the couple years I've been a member, I've loved the way it's encouraged me to think about my day a little more visually, and enabled me to share those (jazzily filterized) images with friends. Best of all, it's missing all the clutter and noise of Facebook. Just pretty pictures, captions, a handful of hashtags -- and authors.

No surprise, right? We're everywhere! And so is YA Highway.

Just like with Pinterest and Tumblr, we've gathered as many YA authors as we could find with Instagram accounts. They're listed here by first name. As always, if you're a YA author and you'd like to be listed (since I'm sure this is far from exhaustive), comment here, tweet us, or email us at yahighway (at) gmail. Same if you're listed and you'd rather not be. 


YA Highwayers on Instagram

YA Highway - @yahighway
Sarah Enni - @sarahenni
Kate Hart - @katehart226
Sumayyah Daud - @bintdaud
Kaitlin Ward - @kaitlin_ward
Debra Driza - @debradriza
Veronica Roth - @vrothbooks
Kristin Halbrook - @kristinhalbrook
Stephanie Kuehn - @mayfieldgirl
Me! (Kirsten Hubbard) - @kirhubbard

YA Authors on Instagram

Adam Silvera - @adamsilvera
Adele Griffin - @adelegriffin
Adrienne Kress - @adriennekress
Ally Carter - @theallycarter
Alyson Noel - @alyson_noel
Amy DelRosso - @amydelrosso
Amy Plum - @amyplum
Andrew Shaffer - @literaryrogue
Andrew Smith - @marburyjack
Anna Jarzab - @ajarzab
Anne Riley - @annerileybooks

Brenna Yovanoff - @brennayovanoff
Brodi Ashton - @brodiashton

Carrie Jones - @carriejonesbooks
Caryn Caldwell - @caryncaldwell
Cassandra Clare - @cassieclare1
Christa Desir - @c_desir
Coe Booth - @coebooth
Corrine Jackson - @corrinejacksonya
Courtney Alison Moulton - @camoulton
Crissa Chappell - @crissachappell

Daisy Whitney - @daisywhitney
Daniel Marks - @mark_henry
Danielle Ellison - @danielleewrites
Dawn Rae Miller - @dawnraemiller
Debbie Ohi - @inkygirl
Debra Driza - @debradriza
Denise Jaden - @denisejadenauthor

Edith Cohn - @edithcohn
Elizabeth Eulberg - @elizabetheulberg
Elizabeth Norris - @liz_norris
Erin Morgenstern - @erinmorgenstern

Genn Albin - @gennalbin
Gretchen Rubin - @gretchenrubin
Gretchen McNeil - @gretchen_mcneil

Heather Brewer - @auntieheatherbrewer
Heather Marie - @HeatherMarieYA
Heather Petty - @heatherwpetty

Jackson Pearce - @jacksonpearce
James Dashner - @dashnerjames
Jay Asher - @jayasher13
Jay Kristoff - @jaykristoff
Jenn Rush - @jenn_rush
Jennifer Bosworth - @jbosauthor
Jennifer Murgia - @jennifer_murgia
Jenny Martin - @jmartinlibrary
Jeri Smith-Ready - @jsmithready
Jess Rothenberg - @jessrothenberg
Jessica Brody - @jessicabrody
Jessica Khoury - @authorjess
John Green - @johngreenwritesbooks
Joy Preble - @joypreble
Julie Murphy - @andimjulie

Kaleb Nation - @kalebnation
Kami Garcia - @kamigarcia
Karsten Knight - @karstenknight
Kasie West - @kasiewest
Kate Ormand - @kateormond
Kathleen Peacock - @kathpeacock
Katie Alender - @randomkatie
Kiersten White - @authorkierstenwhite
Kimberly Derting - @kimberlyderting
Kimberly Sabatini - @kimberlysabatini
Kirsten Hubbard - @kirhubbard
Kristin Halbrook - @kristinhalbrook

Lauren Morrill - @laurenmorrill
Laurie Halse Anderson - @halseanderson
Leah Clifford - @leahclifford
LeighAnn Kopans - @lkopans
Lenore Appelhans - @lenoreva
Lindsay Cummings @authorlindsaycummings
Lindsay N. Currie - @lindsayncurrie
Liz Czukas - @lizczukas

Maggie Stiefvater - @maggie_stiefvater
Margaret Stohl - @margaret_stohl
Markus Zusak - @markuszusak
Matt de la Pena - @mattdelapena
Medeia Sharif - @sharifwrites
Meg Cabot - @officialmegcabot
Melissa de la Cruz - @authormelissadelacruz
Melissa Landers - @melissalanders
Michelle Hodkin – @michellehodkin
Micol Ostow - @micolostow
Mike Martin - @_mike_martin
Miranda Kenneally - @mirandakenneally
Mitali Perkins - @mitaliperkins

Natalie Whipple - @natalie_whipple
Nathan Bransford - @nathanbransford
Neil Gaiman - @neilhimself

Rachele Alpine - @rachelealpine
Richelle Mead - @reallyrichelle
Robin Benway - @robinbenway
Robin Mellom - @robinmellom
Robyn Schneider - @robynschneider

Sarah Bennett Wealer - @sbennettwealer
Sarah Dessen - @sdessen
Sarah Enni - @sarahenni
Sarah MacLean - @sarahmaclean
Sarah Mlynowski - @sarahmlynowski
Scott Tracey - @scottryantracey
Simon Elkeles - @simoneelkeles
Sonia Gensler - @soniagensler
Stephanie Kuehn - @mayfieldgirl
Sumayyah Daud - @bintdaud
Suzanne Palmer - @thelostwitch

Tamara Ireland Stone - @tamaraistone
Tera Lynn Childs - @teralynnchilds

Veronica Roth - @vrothbooks

Publishers on Instagram

Abrams Kids - @abramskids
Entangled TEEN - @entangledteen
Epic Reads (Harper) - @epicreads
Flux Books - @fluxbooks
HarlequinTEEN - @harlequinteen
Little, Brown Books - @littlebrownbooks
Macmillan Children's - @mackidsbooks
Penguin - @penguinstagram
Putnam Books - @putnambooks
Random House - @randomhouseofficial
Random House Kids - @randomhousekids
Scholastic - @scholasticinc
Simon & Schuster - @simonandschuster
SimonTEEN - @simonteen
St. Martin's - @stmartinspress
This Is Teen - @thisisteen
Tor Teen - @torteen