Field Trip Friday: August 29, 2014


- "Why do female writers get trolled the most?" asks Slate. Timely, since this week, Malorie Blackman, the UK Children's Laureate, faced an outpouring of abuse after advocating for more diverse kidlit, and Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian was run out of her home this week by threats from critics outraged by her critiques of video games, while The New Yorker examined how scholar Mary Beard  takes on her trolls. Meanwhile one of the men behind Arizona's Mexican-American Studies ban lost his bid for reelection after the outing of the online pseudonyms he used for leaving offensive comments on political blogs(via Tim Tingle)

- A survey of Edinburgh books festival authors reveals that "hearing a character" means different things over the course of a writing career. (via Megan Abbott)

- "MG/YA writers: If your pub date is 2015 or 2016, no one in your target audience was born in the '90s." Sarah LaPolla has tips for writing for teens in the 21st century.

- Writers need rebuilding time, same as muscles, argues Bill Hayes at the NYT. (via Sara Zarr)

- Steve Almond is concerned by the level of entitlement and lack of respect shown by MFA students.

- Marion Dane Bauer misses school visits... but not enough to start doing them again.



- Elisabeth Donnelly says book criticism and literary culture need a poptimist revolution.

- College student Kaya Thomas has created the We Read Too app, helping readers find books by and about people of color.

- Gayle Forman talks to The Guardian about adapting If I Stay to film and recommends her favorite YA books.

- Kelly Jensen put together a list of YA titles that explore suicide and/or depression.

- ABA released their Autumn 2014 Kids’ Indie Next List.

- A Texas pastor wants all of the paranormal books removed from his local library.

- The New Jersey Library Cooperative has a guide for libraries that want to use Instagram.

- If you've been looking for a way to help Ferguson, MO, Angie Manfredi has their library's wishlist.

- Congratulations to this year's winners and honorees in the Pen Center Literary Awards!


- Jenn Baker and Bev Rivero are launching Minorities in Publishing, a podcast and Tumblr dedicated to diversity and lack thereof in the industry.

- The Guardian explains how the Hatchette/Amazon feud could "rewrite the book on publishing."

- WriteOnCon is over, but you can still check out all their great posts, interviews, live events, and more!


- Donate to Authors for CCHS, an effort spearheaded by Lydia Kang to raise money for congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, and claim books, swag, and critiques as your perk!

- AnnMarie Martin sent us this link to win a signed copy of The Hollow at Goodreads!


- Teen Librarian Toolbox has the first of an important series by Christa Desir on what to do if you're told about sexual assault.

- "I Was No Angel Teen" is taking on the NYT's character assassination of Micheal Brown, and you can help.

- An Oklahoma school superintendent asked girls to bend over during a dress code check.

- Farhad Manjoo wants Twitter to leave its favoriting mechanism alone, describing it as the platform's "digital body language."

- White male reporters on Twitter can't fathom why Senator Gillibrand didn't name the colleagues who harassed her. (via Kate Spencer)

- Marie Claire features 8 amazing Native young women working to their cultures.

- The article I'm forcing on everyone this week: "The Strange & Curious Tale of the Last True Hermit."


Playboy's flowchart guide to catcalling is actually amazing. (Link goes to Vox.)

Mallory Ortberg's "Male Novelist Jokes" were funny on The Toast, but somehow are even more amazing out loud.

Nanowrimo Approacheth!

If you are anything like me, you have spent the last few years reaching November 2nd, realizing National Novel Writing Month is upon you, and then either half assing it or throwing in the towel all together. But it's the very end of August and I am here to remind you, a full month in advance! And also to give you some tips on prepping for the blitz of writing that is ahead of you if you choose to commit.

And the list goes:

  1. Definitely accept ahead of time that come December 1 your novel will be terrible and you will have to spend a lot of time fixing it. Internalize this. Whatever other revision timelines you have had for other books, they do not apply here. You just spent 30 days writing around 1,600 words a day. It will be terrible. There will be places where you wrote [RETURN TO THIS SCENE AT A LATER DATE] or [SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENS FIGURE IT OUT AFTER CHRISTMAS]. That's okay. 
  2. Write a pitch line. I think that a lot of people figure this out after everything else, when they're getting ready for querying or to pitch to their agent. But it's really useful to have this in writing when you set out - it demonstrates character, conflict, and plot.You can always return to it when you hit a snag. And if the scope of your book changes, the pitch line changes but in the flurry of November you have a base line. 
  3. Following the pitch line, write a really terrible query. This is not for anyone else but you and maybe like, a friend who you will scream at about your book through out November. The query isn't selling anything to anyone. It's purpose is: is this really a story or a string of events only I care about? If it is not a story, how do I make it a story? Is there actually conflict? Is this character actually necessary? Does it make sense? It doesn't need to be shiny or pretty or catchy. 
  4. Don't write a synopsis. Don't do it to yourself, don't inflict it on your friends, regret this choice later, in March, when someone makes you do it anyway.
  5. Finally: if you know you will not write fifty thousand words in thirty days that is completely alright. Set your expectations somewhere manageable. None of us will judge you. When you reach word count goal the rest of us will be envious. Don't burn yourself out trying to write a whole novel when you know that is not in your creative well.
As I have not actually successfully completely Nanowrimo since 2008, I cannot one hundred percent vouch for these methods. But please feel free to share the things that work for you!

Road Trip Wednesday

This week's topic: What's the best writing advice you've ever received?

Participate via comments, your own blog, tumblr, twitter (hashtag #roadtripwednesday), anywhere you'd like!

July/August Reads for the Road

I'm home for a brief spell, having spent almost two months abroad and now heading out again for a week off the grid. But I'm taking some great reads with me as I travel. I hope your summer reading has been just as fun. If you're looking for reading list suggestions, here are our favorite reads in July and August--take them on the road with you for these last few days of summer.

Steph recommends: These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar Honest and heartbreaking, this is a wonderful portrait of a boy who is trying to overcome the trauma of his childhood. I especially loved the relationship between the brothers.

Deb says: I really love how the MC Elise in This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales grows in terms of letting go of other people's expectations and accepting herself for who she is--I think that's such a wonderful and much needed sentiment. I also like how the family relationships are explored. Plus, DJing and awesome music = WIN!

Kate kept busy reading Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry: A beautiful and unflinching story of two girls searching for a home and accidentally destroying the one they could have had with one another; Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour: The romance is lovely, and I found the set design element fascinating; and Isla and the Happily Every After by Stephanie Perkins, who managed to make Kate genuinely worry that the "happily ever after" was in question. Kate loves that she reveals the immature aspects of burgeoning relationships without belittling them or their potential.

Leila loved You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle, a contemporary about a group of teenagers whose lives are the subject of a famous series of documentaries (similar to the UP series). A memorable read with vividly drawn characters, and the implications of what it means to "frame" your life and identity in a particular way for an audience feel especially relevant in the age of social media.

And Amy has two recs this summer: Poe's Children: The New Horror, edited by Peter Straub-- An adult horror anthology that is seriously rocking my socks off so far! Some seriously fresh voices and uniquely twisted stories. Love it. And Locke and Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez-- A YA horror comic, need I say more?! Okay, I will. After the death of their father, three siblings are taken by their mother to an ancestral home called Keyhouse, which is located in a town called Lovecraft and is filled with terrifying doors that lead to crazy places/situations. So, so good. Cannot wait to read the next one!

Lee loves Upside Down by Lia Riley because it addresses OCD and it's really really good.

Kaitlin has three suggestions you should get your hands on. 1) The Hot Zone by Richard Preston: TERRIFYING non-fiction. I don't recommend that you think, "hey, there's an ebola outbreak and I've been meaning to read this book, what better time?" because you're wrong, ANY OTHER TIME is a better time. But it is so interesting, scary, and well-written. Even if you don't think you could handle reading a whole book about such a disturbing subject, the first chapter alone is an amazing example of writing tension subtly into tiny details and hooking readers from page one. 2) Our Broken Sky by Sarah Harian: A companion novella to The Wicked We Have Done (which I recommended a few months ago), I REALLY enjoyed reading from the POV of an intriguing secondary character from the first book. Val is kind of an antiheroine and I LOVE antiheroines, when they're well-written and complex, which is absolutely the case here. 3) The small dude and I are currently reading It's Not The Stork by Robie H. Hariss et al, for at LEAST the sixth time, so for parents of kids who are starting to have questions about their bodies and where babies come from and whatnot, I highly recommend.

Kristin H. finally read Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone and loved the lush and beautiful setting and worldbuilding. She also got her hands on Alexis Bass's Love and Other Theories and recommends you add this to your Coming Soon list. A great contemporary about the way girls are expected to love, and the lengths they go to to keep from getting hurt, even if it means lying to themselves.

What are your summer recommendations?

Happy reading!
<3 Kris H.

Avoiding the Council of Elrond: Combining Exposition and Dialogue Without Boring the Hell Out of Everyone

Sometimes, especially if you write fantasy or science fiction, you end up with a whole heap of important information that just has to GO SOMEWHERE DAMMIT. And you want to put that information in dialogue, because dialogue is just more fun, and also dialogue usually moves the story forward faster than description. And if you're writing YA, you naturally want your story to feel like it's moving forward with every sentence you write, because YA is all about movement and momentum.

That is, until you realize that the word count is stacking up and your characters have been talking for pages and pages with no end in sight, and everything is turning into that Council of Elrond scene from The Fellowship of the Ring. Not the film version. The book version. You know, the scene when all the characters sit down for a big meeting and spend approximately four hundred years discussing the history of the ring, why it needs to be destroyed, the whereabouts of Gollum, what they had for breakfast, etc. It is important information, mostly, because we learn why the ring is so dangerous and just how high the stakes are, but I don’t think anyone other than the most hardened of Tolkien fans ever actually reads all that stuff, because seriously, it goes on. And on.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you realize your exposition has overwhelmed your dialogue and your main character is on the brink of volunteering to take the One Ring to Mount Doom just to MAKE THIS GODDAMN SCENE END ALREADY HOLY CRAP, here are some questions to ask:

Is this information really necessary? Sometimes when you've built a world from scratch, it can be hard to see which details are interesting and necessary and which are, well, not. What would happen if this information was left unexplained? Would it leave your readers with a deeply lessened understanding of what your story is about and why everything happens the way it does? Or would it make no difference? Maybe it doesn't need to be explained in this stretch of dialogue, because it's something a reader can pick up on gradually from the context of everything around it without having the information laid out, or maybe it would fit even better in a different conversation. Or maybe it doesn't need to go in this dialogue because really, it doesn't need to go anywhere. After all, not every detail of your world building has to make it onto the page*. Think of the each thing you leave out as an extra layer in your world's atmosphere, a layer which makes the story and its universe richer and more real, even if you're the only one who knows about it.

Is this dialogue organic to the characters and the story? Does it make sense that these characters would be having this conversation, in this place, at this point, in this much detail? Are people explaining things to each other that should, in fact, be totally obvious to anyone who lives in their world? Are they still speaking as people, each with their own motivations, conflicts, contradictions, secrets, and emotions? Or have they turned into cardboard cutouts who exist solely with the express purpose of Explaining All The Things?

Can this information go somewhere else and/or be communicated more effectively by other means? Maybe that exposition might work better if it's not shoehorned into a conversation where it doesn't fit. The film version of Fellowship of the Ring moves a whole heap of the most important information from the Council of Elrond scene to the prologue sequence and other parts of the film, allowing the council scene to be stripped down to its most important conflicts without confusion. (Or boredom.) Sometimes it's worth experimenting with different ways of communicating the exposition too. Would it be better as straight up description? After all, 'Show, Don’t Tell' is a guideline, not a rule. In Steering the Craft, Ursula Le Guin says, “There's a tendency to fear descriptive “passages”, as if they were unnecessary ornaments that inevitably slow the “action”... [A] landscape and a great deal of information about people and a way of life can be the action, the onward movement of the story...”

What is truly happening here? Does it amount to more than just “people talking to each other”? Because it should. Even if there is little in the way of overt action, there should still be things going on under the surface, and a sense that your scene is building towards something. Are there tensions between the characters and forces beyond them? Tensions between the characters? Tensions within the characters? What are characters saying? What are they not saying? And what would they never dare to say, even to themselves? These things will make your dialogue compelling, and your exposition compelling with it, whether the tensions are overt and explosive, or underground and rumbling like an emotional fault line beneath your characters’ feet.

How do you make exposition and dialogue work together?

*Unless you’re really into writing Tolkien-esque appendices, I guess.

Field Trip Friday: August 22, 2014

Our amazing Kate Hart is away this weekend, so I am filling in. Hope you enjoy this week's links!


- Janice Hardy has some great advice for cutting words from your manuscript. 
- Author E. C. Myers has some thoughts on being a male author.
- Andrew Karre has an excellent post on sex in YA.


- Susie Rodarme discusses how reading helped her overcome a racist upbringing
- A Georgia football player joins a book club. Watch the video, it's worth it!
- Everything about Harry Potter is magical. But if you need fifteen new reasons to love the film, Buzzfeed has them.
- Speaking of, JK Rowling wrote another short story in the Harry Potter universe.
- Tom Pollock defends sparkly vampires.
- Nine unforgettable teen reads, provided by Kirkus.
- YA fiction should be embraced, says Theresa Michals. (via Carrie Mesrobian)


- Wondering how best to get your book out to bloggers for review? Marcy Kennedy has some tips.
- Kelly Jensen provides a list of 28 must-follow tumblrs for YA lovers (including us!)
- Lori Lee writes about diversity in YA fantasy, and why it matters.
- An argument for the importance of death in YA fiction, by Rupert Wallis.
- To truly make publishing more diverse, we may need to dig deeper.
- Corinne Duyvis writes a lovely article on how being diagnosed with autism helped her become a published author.


- After the harassment of Robin Williams' daughter Zelda, Twitter is finally changing its policies.
- Your tumblr images will now be able to be scanned for brands.
- Mo'ne Davis rocked it at the Little League World Series.
- In the wake of recent problems in Ferguson, three teens have created an app that could help increase accountability for police forces.


-Stephen King participated in the ice bucket challenge:

Cover Reveal and Preorder Giveaway: Tunnel Vision by Susan Adrian

Today we are very excited to reveal the cover of Susan Adrian's TUNNEL VISION, which comes out in January 2015. Susan has also been so kind as to offer a preorder giveaway, so be sure to enter below! 

The cover: 

About Tunnel Vision:

Jake Lukin just turned 18. He's decent at tennis and Halo, and waiting to hear on his app to Stanford. But he's also being followed by a creep with a gun, and there's a DARPA agent waiting in his bedroom. His secret is blown.

When Jake holds a personal object, like a pet rock or a ring, he has the ability to "tunnel" into the owner. He can sense where they are, like a human GPS, and can see, hear, and feel what they do. It's an ability the government would do anything to possess: a perfect surveillance unit who could locate fugitives, spies, or terrorists with a single touch.

Jake promised his dad he’d never tell anyone about his ability. But his dad died two years ago, and Jake slipped. If he doesn't agree to help the government, his mother and sister may be in danger. Suddenly he's juggling high school, tennis tryouts, flirting with Rachel Watkins, and work as a government asset, complete with 24-hour bodyguards.

Forced to lie to his friends and family, and then to choose whether to give up everything for their safety, Jake hopes the good he's doing—finding kidnap victims and hostages, and tracking down terrorists—is worth it. But he starts to suspect the good guys may not be so good after all. With Rachel's help, Jake has to try to escape both good guys and bad guys and find a way to live his own life instead of tunneling through others.

Susan's thoughts on the cover:

There is one part of this cover that I love love love...other than the fact that this is The Cover for My Book and Look! Jake on a Cover! and the fantastic blurb from S.J. Kincaid, and the beautiful colors, and the usual giddiness.

The Chucks.

There is a long and complex story of how I came to write this book (detailed post on Nova Ren Suma's blog), but the gist is that I told the story to myself, night after night, long before I thought to write it down. At first I thought--since I am a girl--that it was a girl narrator, as all my others had been. I followed the narrator blindly through adventures. But one night, I looked down in the story, and I was surprised to see black Chucks, a boy's Chucks, on what were most definitely a teen boy's feet. From that moment I knew my narrator was Jake, and the story flowed from there, until I finally wrote it down.

I never put it in the book, other than that he wears "sneakers," but it was always clear in my head. I gasped with shock when I saw that the designer (the talented Young Lim) had put Jake in Chucks, as the focus of the cover. It was perfect. It was Jake, right there.


Susan has so kindly offered to give away a preorder of TUNNEL VISION. Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

About Susan:

Susan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who stumbled into living in Montana. As a teen she danced in a ballet company and was wildly nerdy. She got a degree in English from the University of California Davis, lived in England, and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not hanging out with her husband and daughter, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, traveling, and writing more books.