Long Haul Projects

I took this photo last time I flew home from Europe. I had just spent at least twelve hours flying from London to Singapore, and then twenty crazed minutes dashing across Singapore Airport for my connecting flight home to Auckland, which would take another ten hours or so. My brain was a bleary blur and as my plane took off from Singapore, I snapped a photo of the harbour, silvery in the early morning light. It was so cloudy I couldn't see where the sea ended and the sky began.

It seems like a mad, mad thing, to fly from New Zealand to the other side of the world and back again, and when I'm halfway through I always wonder why I bother. Why anyone bothers. But if you come from a small country surrounded by ocean and you long to see all the famous, far away places, like London and Paris and Rome and Barcelona and New York and Montreal, you do it, even though the restlessness and the exhaustion will both hit you at the same time and you'll want to crawl out of your own skin, even though it seems like the journey will kill you long before it ends. Because you know there's no way you'll ever see those places in person otherwise, and they are worth every moment of the ordeal to reach them.

Some writers finish things quickly. I'm not one of those writers. At least, not at the moment. Things might change in the future, but for now, every project I embark on is a long haul flight from beginning to end. And I'm okay with that, because I have to be. If my choice is between travelling a long way to see a place I've always longed to see or never experiencing it in person, I’ll travel. And if the choice is between taking years to finish one novel or never finishing one, then I'll take years, because the destination is worth it.

At least, I spend a lot of time telling myself it is.

I've been working on the same novel for a long time, and I'm nowhere near done with it. I am near the end of the current draft though, and when I get to the end, I get to take a rest, because I figure I deserve one. I might not be home yet, but there's still the gap between flights. The moment when I get to wander through an unfamiliar airport, leaden but joyous, because it's been so long since I walked across any kind of open space.

Maybe I'll work on a new idea when I'm done with this draft, one that's still shiny and fresh. Or maybe I'll do nothing at all with the freedom except sleep and read books and play Sims 3. Either way, I've been looking forward to it for ages. It's impossible to be in the air for so long and not look forward to touching the ground again, even if it's just for a short while.

I spent the last few weeks feeling like I wanted nothing more than to be off this plane. I've been working on this novel so long that sometimes – ok, a lot of the time – all I can see is everything that's wrong with it. And then I feel like I’m trapped in a box with six hours of flying behind me and six hours ahead of me and no result to show for it, and my brain gets antsy and starts posing drastic solutions. Change the entire plot! Abandon it and write a different novel! Quit writing entirely! Empty the dishwasher, then browse the internet forever! Find a parachute! Escape escape escape!

And then I have to remind myself of what I'm meant to be doing and drag myself over to my computer to do it, even though I can hardly even remember where I'm flying to anymore, let alone why I thought it would be a good idea to fly there.

The other day I sat down to write after weeks of restlessness. I was writing a climactic scene, one I'd been waiting to write for a long time, but I couldn't feel anything other than weary. Still, I had a few hours, which is a rare thing in my life at the moment, and I knew I needed to use them. So I sat down, ignored the internet, found appropriate music, and started typing, word by word, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. And as I wrote, for the first time in a long while, I became more and more excited. Excited by the scene as it built up and up. Excited by this story, drawing increasingly quickly towards the end I planned out all those months ago. Excited by the scene flowing out of my head and onto the page.

And I knew I'd reach the end of the draft soon, even if I wasn't quite there yet. But I could feel the roar of the plane’s engines, the feeling of bursting through the sky, and suddenly, the journey stopped being maddening. I might not have typed the last words and stepped off the plane, but in that moment, it didn’t matter.

The sky can be worth it too.

The Carpool Lane: Inspiration For NaNoWriMo 2014!

There's that special chill in the air, your fantasy team is probably already hopeless, and you feel a certain itch to create something new. That can only mean one thing: It's time for National Novel Writing Month!

Every year, thousands of writers join in the month-long campaign to write a novel (50,000 words) in one month, in a collective burst of creativity that probably registers huge on the Universe's Richter Scale of Awesome.

If you're cracking your knuckles, readying to dive back into the NaNo ring, or if you're a n00b to the whole crazy rigamarole, we want to help fuel your quest for 50K! So we're bringing back our newsletter, Carpool Lane, a daily offering of inspiration, quotes on writing, resources, and of course .gifs!

Want some examples of the daily goodness we'll be spittin' your way? Try this (wam!) or this (pow!) or one of these (kablam!).

Don't go into the NaNo circus without a shot of creative adrenaline -- sign up now!

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Field Trip Friday: October 17, 2014

Kate Hart is off doing some well-earned galavanting this week, so I'm taking the reins! Oh god I spelled that "reigns" the first time. Bear with me, friends.


- The National Book Award Young People's Literature finalists were announced! They are: BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson; NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley; THE PORT CHICAGO 50: DISASTER, MUTINY, AND THE FIGHT FOR CIVIL RIGHTS by Steve Sheinkin; REVOLUTION by Deborah Wiles; and THREATENED by Eliot Schrefer. They're all winners! Go forth and read 'em!

- John Grisham made some truly mind-boggling remarks to The Telegraph, suggesting the U.S. legal system should be easier on people who view child p0rn online. Anne Ursu wrote a pretty definitive response, asking what it means that someone who has of late started writing books for children believes that "sixteen-year-old girls who look thirty" are somehow less exploited than 10-year-old boys. "I do believe that when you profit off kids, you have a moral obligation to serve and honor those kids, and I know that this industry is full of people who care a great deal about that obligation," Ursu writes. "So, what happens now?" Grisham has apologized. But why even bother, when people fall over themselves to come to your defense in major U.S. newspapers and call the response a "piling on"?

The women at Teen Librarian Toolbox recount a time the police were (correctly) called on a patron searching for child p0rn on library computers, and note that the "accidental clicking" Grisham suggests a friend of his did is different from the engaged activity of downloading. "The ease at which Grisham suggests people accidentally stumble upon child pornography has not been evidenced in my 20 years as a YA librarian working in a library system with sometimes over more than 20 public computers used daily by 100s of people."


- American Indians in Children's Literature posted a handy guide to the best books by or about American Indians.

- Debut author Robin Talley writes about TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for The Guardian, and how that book's message of empathy ties into the current movement to publish and read more diverse stories. In the same paper, Corinne Duyvis wrote about the rise in "incidental diversity" in kids' books: "When none of these elements are acknowledged in realistic fiction, I notice. When the absence of those elements is praised, I notice especially. And I wonder — perhaps uncharitably — are diverse characters only OK as long as they’re not too diverse?"

Malinda Lo also took down critics who critique books by saying diversity "isn't realistic."

- Brooklyn Magazine compiled a map of the best book for every state. We spy THE OUTSIDERS and ELEANOR AND PARK!


- Writing retreats don't have to be at four-star resorts by Lake Tahoe, author Kristi Holl reminds us. She challenges writers to think differently about retreats, and give themselves permission to take one. (Incidentally, YA Highway has a quiz to help you figure out what dream writing retreat is right for you. Daydreams don't hurt, right?)

-Stumped? Get inspired by BookRiot's list of the Top Ten TED Talks on Writing.

- Cat Winters, Morris Award finalist for her debut IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, talks about her 20-year path to being published.


- We Need Diverse Books announced a new grant and award program. The Walter Dean Myers Award, which will begin in 2015, will recognize published authors from diverse backgrounds who celebrate diversity in their writing and “[allow] children to see themselves reflected back” in those works. Grants will be awarded to up-and-coming, unpublished writers and illustrators who are creating diverse works and require financial support so that they can get published.

- CNN does a YA publishing trend look-ahead to 2015. In: Illness; diversity; mystery; horror; fantasy; bullying; New Adult.

- A book by an unidentified visual artist detailing the sexual abuse from his childhood has been put on hold after his ex-wife protested its release, in hopes of keeping their son from reading it. A UK court ruled that the question of whether the boy’s rights should take priority over those of his father should be decided at a full trial.

- Riot grrl goddess and Sonic Youth co-founder Kim Gordon's memoir, GIRL IN A BAND, has a 2015 release date!

- Ursula Le Guin's 90s letter declining - in badass fashion - to blurb a Brian Aldiss work because it is so "self-contentedly, exclusively male."

- NYTimes best-selling author Margaret Stohl is writing a Black Widow YA book as part of her deal with Marvel Comics!


- GamerGate continued to horrify this week, as developer Brianna Wu was forced out of her home to seek safety after an online stalker sent death threats to her and her family. Deadspin posted a thorough break-down of what GamerGate is, what they're doing (systematically threatening and harassing women who discuss misogyny in the video game industry). Video game vlogger Anita Sarkeesian - who has also been forced to flee her home and contact police because of Internet harassment and threats - had to cancel an appearance at Utah State University after the college received threats of a mass shooting and then refused to check attendees for concealed weapons. Most recently, the group apparently now plans to attack Brianna Wu's game, Revolution 60, by mounting a string of false anti-feminist complaints about it. In response, CommunityRED outlined nine ways to to doge trolls, "A Feminist's Guide To Digital Security." (via @katwithsword)

- Our own Kate Hart's new project - Badass Ladies You Should Know - prompted some great thoughts on what makes a lady "badass," and a list of pretty freaking awesome women. Follow the new Tumblr for future awesomeness!

- A 12-year-old Arizona girl called B.S. on DICK's Sporting Goods for sending her a basketball catalogue that featured zero women playing basketball in a letter that went viral. "It's hard enough for girls to break through in this sport as it is, without you guys excluding us from your catalogue."

- The seven Sayreville football player teens charged with hazing may be tried as adults.

- THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS will be adapted again -- but for TV this time.

- GayYA is looking for volunteers!

- Send YA Interrobang your favorite female authors for #WomenAuthorWednesday.

- Photographer María Fernanda, who was taken down by VICE commenters (ugh), gives advice to artists on how to deal with haters.


- Drunk J Crew!

Cover Reveal + Giveaway: BETWEEN THE NOTES by Sharon Roat

Today we are so excited to reveal the cover to Sharon Roat's debut contemporary BETWEEN THE NOTES (June 2015, HarperTeen) I love books about music and I really love this cover. I hope you do too! 

Also, Sharon is generously giving away a signed ARC of BETWEEN THE NOTES, so be sure to enter below!

Now....the cover!

The book:

When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.

And it isn’t pretty.

Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.

As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.

Debut author Sharon Huss Roat crafts a charming and timely story of what happens when life as you know it flips completely upside down.



Sharon's thoughts on the cover:

When my editor told me they were working on cover designs and asked for my input, I was excited and terrified! (Pretty much describes my state of mind throughout the publishing process.) I spent several hours picking out examples of YA covers I loved. Until then, I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for in a cover. But the collection I had curated made it pretty clear. Most of the covers I fall in love with are: 1) are either fully illustrated or combine illustration and photography; 2) have hand-lettered titles; 3) are colorful and light; and 4) give a visual hint of the main characters but leave their exact appearance to the imagination of the reader.

The only specific visual I mentioned in my cover ideas was Ivy’s little attic room at the top of her family's tall, skinny house.  I was therefore thrilled when I saw the first sketch for my cover. They nailed it—from the gorgeous colors to the silhouettes at the bottom and the little piano keys in the window. I can't wait to see it on bookshelves!


Sharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband (who makes fonts), her son (who makes music), and her daughter (who makes believe!). She worked in public relations for twenty years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. Between the Notes is her debut novel. When she’s not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical. Visit her online at www.sharonroat.com or on Twitter @sharonwrote.

ARC Giveaway!

Sharon is giving away a signed ARC of BETWEEN THE NOTES. Enter below for a chance to win (US/Canada only, please). Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic: What was your best Halloween costume ever?

You can participate via comments, your own blog, tumblr, twitter (hashtag #roadtripwednesday), wherever you'd like!

Cover Reveal: EVERY LAST PROMISE by Kristin Halbrook!

 We're thrilled to share to cover of YA Highwayer Kristin Halbrook's YA follow-up to Nobody But UsEvery Last Promise, available from HarperTeen on April 21st, 2015. Take a look!

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson and Gayle Forman, Every Last Promise is a provocative and emotional novel about a girl who must decide between keeping quiet and speaking up after witnessing a classmate's sexual assault. 

Kayla saw something at the party that she wasn't supposed to. But she hasn't told anyone. No one knows the real story about what happened that night—about why Kayla was driving the car that ran into a ditch after the party, about what she saw in the hours leading up to the accident, and about the promise she made to her friend Bean before she left for the summer. 

Now Kayla's coming home for her senior year. If Kayla keeps quiet, she might be able to get her old life back. If she tells the truth, she risks losing everything—and everyone—she ever cared about.

Guest Post: I l Love You and I Want To Kill You; Let's Make Out by Catherine Egan

Today we have a guest post by author Catherine Egan exploring the lure of the bad boy, in life and in YA literature. Leave a comment on this post and let us know who your favorite fictional villain is to be entered to win a set of Catherine's The Last Day of Tian Di's series (giveaway ends Friday).

I love you and I want to kill you; let’s make out

My first real crush – and easily the most powerful movie-star crush I’ve ever had – was on David Bowie’s Jareth, King of the Goblins, in the movie Labyrinth. I was ten, and I was smitten. Yes, he was evil, and I cheered when Sarah defeated him at last – You have no power over me! – but what I remember best about the movie are his eyebrows, his ineffable cool, the spinning crystal balls in his hands, and how amazing it was that he seemed to be in love with her, this ordinary girl not so unlike me. How do you like my Labyrinth, Sarah?

Three years later, I kissed a boy for the first time. A bad boy. He found me in the halls and told me he liked me and he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I stood there stunned, thinking I don’t even know you, but also, swoon, because I was just thirteen and he was in tenth grade, all spiky hair and attitude, smoking cigarettes in the parking lot and getting suspended from school. I said OK, because if I said no then nothing would happen and if I said yes then something would happen and at thirteen I desperately needed for something – anything – to happen to me.

He took me outside to make out and then gave me a cigarette and I felt sick all afternoon. Why he had picked me out in the halls to be his girlfriend was a total mystery to me at first. Later, he told me the story of how he had fallen for me at the bus stop: He saw me looking at him and so he stared back, but I didn’t flinch or blush or look away, I just held his gaze. He made faces, and I stared him down. He gestured for me to come over and join him. I looked at him steadily for a few beats more and then looked away. “You were so cool,” he said, already so disappointed by me. “Why aren’t you like that anymore?” I didn’t tell him the truth: that I was not cool, I was shortsighted and too vain to wear my glasses, so I hadn’t seen him at all or registered any of his faces or gestures – he was just another boy-shaped blur at the bus stop. Love is blind? The relationship ended two weeks later, when I wouldn’t put out and he threatened me with a curtain rod in my friends’ parents’ bedroom. It put me off bad boys in real life – there was nothing to like about this messed up kid yelling at me and brandishing a curtain rod. He was no Jareth, King of the Goblins. He was no Heathcliff, roaring, “If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day.”

Of course, it’s a sort of horrible cliché, the bad boy character, whether he is anti-hero or full-blown villain. He’s dark and brooding and secretive, he wants to devour you but the point is that he wants you more than anyone has ever wanted you, and there is this connection you can’t explain, you are destined for each other, you can save him from himself, maybe only you can save him, etcetera etcetera. But if it has become cliché, that’s because we respond to it over and over again, and each generation encounters it anew. Fantasies aren’t always pretty but the glory of them is how dark and uncontrolled and unrepressed they can be, and, sure, sometimes it takes an encounter with a mean kid brandishing a curtain rod to help a girl recognize that she might want something different in real life, but that doesn’t temper the power of the fantasy.

Because it’s such a popular trope, the Bad Boy thing gets done very, very badly all the time, but on occasion it gets done really well, too. My favorite bad boy in recent YA fiction is the villain of Leigh Bardugo’s riveting Grisha Trilogy, the Darkling. He looks young but he is ancient. His power is such that everyone fears and respects him. We first meet him lounging on an ebony throne, controlling the scene completely. He gets a lot of great lines. And he fixes on our girl Alina – in the beginning an ordinary enough girl, like Sarah from Labyrinth. Her first glimpse of him leaves her “torn between fear and fascination.” There is something wonderfully cinematic about him, darkness unspooling from his hands.

In a brilliant touch, the Darkling is an amplifier, meaning when he lays hands on Alina he amplifies the power to call forth light that she has hidden inside her all these years. As well as being a fantastic plot point, it’s a very effective analogy for sex. His touch makes her powerful, light pouring through her. Afterwards she is stunned and amazed at herself. His power is darkness and hers is light – they are opposites, but twinned too. They complete each other, they belong together – or so the Darkling would have her believe. His allure is sexual on both an explicit and a metaphorical level. Becoming adversaries also makes them equals, and the connection between them, the twinning and the attraction, becomes all the more intense. Leigh Bardugo puts all the old clichés to fresh use – the connection between hero and villain, the possibility or impossibility of redemption, the tangle of sex and power and love – and complicates them by making her characters complicated.

Just as we must choose our lovers and our enemies with care, we should demand a high standard for our fictional heart-throbs and our villains alike – especially when they happen to be one and the same. Now that I am old and jaded, I chip little hunks of ice off my heart to put in my G&T in the evening, but some corner of said frozen heart will always belong to David Bowie’s swaggering Jareth – while also declaring You Have No Power Over Me – and in that spirit, I nominate the Darkling as this generation of YA readers’ most crush-worthy villain. 

This is one in a series of blog posts on villains; you can check my blog for a list of villain-posts. Let me know in the comments: who are your favorite fictional villains? Choose villains from books / movies / comic books / TV – just not real life! A winner will be selected by random number generator (I’ll post a screenshot) and I will send you a book bundle – all three books in The Last Days of Tian Di series – chock-a-block with villains and their villainy. 

About Catherine

Catherine Egan grew up in Vancouver, Canada, and wrote her first novel at age 6. It was about a group of kids on a farm who ran races. Each chapter ended with “Cathy won the race again!” Since then, she has lived in Oxford, Tokyo, Kyoto, a volcanic Japanese island that erupted and sent her hurtling straight into the arms of her now-husband, Beijing, an oil rig in China’s Bohai Bay, and now Connecticut, where she is still writing books (but Cathy doesn’t win every race anymore). Her first novel, Shade & Sorceress, won a 2013 Moonbean Children’s Book Award (Gold) and was named an Ontario Library Association Best Bet for 2012 in the Young Adult Fiction category.

The Last Days of Tian Di book 3: Bone, Fog, Ash & Star

Eliza hoped she could start a new life and avoid the Oracle’s terrible prophecies. That hope is dashed on her sixteenth birthday, when her best friend Charlie is nearly murdered. To find out who tried to kill him and why, Eliza must return to the life she swore she’d left behind forever in the Mancer Citadel. Soon, Eliza is pushed to her very limits, struggling to protect those she loves and pursued unrelentingly by powerful enemies as she undertakes a quest to collect four ancient treasures with the power to change the world. Impossible choices and shocking truths lie in wait as Eliza and her friends band together for a final confrontation in this conclusion to the series.

The opinions expressed in guest posts are the views of the designated authors and do not necessarily reflect those of YA Highway members.

If you would like to write a guest post for us, submit a proposal here!