Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last week, thanks to an invitation from Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Stephanie and I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy Hall, the first author to be discovered and signed to the Swoon Reads imprint. Swoon is an exciting new project from MacMillan -- a contest that might be best described as YA-meets-American-Idol.

Here's Sandy, charming us with details of the romance between college students Lea and Gabe -- and also sharing her experience on this journey of writing and publication.


Fun factoids from the evening:
• Sandy had been working in libraries since she was 16 years old.
• She loves and values having "a finger on the pulse" as a YA librarian now.
• She had written in the past -- and "failed NaNo for several years in a row."
• She also failed freshman writing in college -- which means "there is always hope for anyone!"
• Mostly she wrote fanfic. (For Glee!)
A Little Something Different• Last fall she saw the call from Swoon Reads for manuscripts, consulted with one of the teens she knows ("What kind of YA romance do you want to read?"), and then sat down and started writing A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
• Sandy loves the Swoon community, which is full of supportive and enthusiastic readers and writers.
• Because of her fanfic background, the "crowdsourcing" aspect of Swoon Reads felt familiar to Sandy.
• When MacMillan wanted to call Sandy about her deal, her mom warned, "If they ask you for money, it's a scam!"
• Working with MacMillan was a dream come true, and they helped her edit the story to be even stronger.
• They reduced the number of POVs, and also made Lea a freshman instead of a junior. This basically required rewriting half the story.
• ALSD is definitely a YA story, even though it's set at "Fake Rutgers."
• Now Sandy is working on something new, and it is for MacMillan again, but it probably will not feature multiple POVs.
• She likes to write early in the day, and probably averages 1,000 to 1,500 words. (But on a good day, she can write double that!)
• Chuck Wendig's blog Terrible Minds = her Bible. She particularly relies on (what Chuck calls) a “vomit draft,” in combination with her own system of index cards (which you can see pictures of in ALSD).

Tuesday, September 16, 2014





About four years ago I was starting to revise my first manuscript, which had topped out at a whopping 189,000 words! I knew I needed to pare it way, way down so the words that were left could really shine. I was struggling with that whole concept of "less is more" when I read Gayle Forman's novel, IF I STAY. And then I understood.

IF I STAY was such an emotional read, and Forman achieved it by choosing just the right amount of material--and just the right material--to make her readers feel deeply for the characters. With straightforward but poignant prose, Forman made the lives of Mia and Adam feel authentic and brutal and intense... for me, the book was both inspirational and educational.

The other night I saw the movie version of IF I STAY and it was so moving that I cried through the whole thing. The adaptation, pacing and casting were great and the storyline stayed true to the book. Even though there is a lot of tragedy and heartache involved, it's ultimately a hopeful story about following your dreams and falling in love.

If you have a chance, go see it! And then come tell us what you think.




Thursday, September 11, 2014


Okay, I already blogged about this on my own site yesterday, but there was too much goodness to be contained in one post! I just had to share a few more of these wonderful quotes from beloved YA authors, which I found in the YALSA interview series "One Thing Leads to Another."

A.S. King:
My first six novels were written in a vacuum—on a farm in Ireland, living off the land, not caring all that much about this life I lead now—publishers, agents, critics, awards. It sounds a bit naïve perhaps, but I found and needed writing as an escape from real life. I was struggling and I didn’t know what to do with it. So one day I sat down at a typewriter and the release was most important. Not therapy, but a need to express myself without anyone butting in and telling me how I felt or how I should feel or how my feelings were wrong, etc. Those novels (along with others) live in a drawer as a reminder of that time, and as physical proof that I am writing for myself and not for others, which is how I want to keep it.

David Levithan:
I wrote Love is the Higher Law, which takes place in New York on 9/11 and in the immediate space after, and even though I was writing it within a decade of the events, it was already historical fiction. I think writing about gay lives now is like that. Not that things get banished easily to history, but that the here and now moves too fast to be photographed easily. We novelists must try to pin down the blur, and show what’s happening right now both for the right now, and for whatever comes next.

Melina Marchetta:
Trust your instincts. Most times my instincts are right and I still doubt them, but not as much as my teen self did. And learn to accept praise. I was hopeless as a teenager, and later I coped very poorly with all the attention I received for my first novel. A friend’s mum took me aside and explained that by not accepting the compliment, I was taking away pleasure from the person giving it. Now, I find it as easy as saying a thank you.

Shannon Hale:
I don’t remember being very good at anything as a teen. I was okay smart but didn’t get great grades. I loved theater but didn’t get cast in significant roles. I loved writing but didn’t produce anything noteworthy. I feel like those years for me were a battleground. I learned a lot and got bruised and challenged and discovered my passions, but they were not a time for me to shine. At the time it sucked, but objectively I’d rather not peak in high school.

For more from this great series, both past posts and new ones, please visit YALSA's website.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014
You might have heard recently that the legendary mystery of Who was Jack the Ripper? has been claimed to be solved. With the amount of speculation over decades and decades, you would think more people would be buzzing about hard DNA evidence. Except, just maybe, we are smarter than that.

Having recently read Maureen Johnson's THE NAME OF THE STAR, I find the evidence and identity of Jack the Ripper to be quite interesting. I'm not a fan of mysteries (I don't like being in the dark, figuratively speaking) and I'm not a fan of violence (or dead bodies); however, this novel was a fun (and safe) little fantasy. I mean, it starts out about Jack, but ends up with a completely different paranormal twist that I wasn't expecting.

I love that about story.

And maybe the truth at the heart of the Ripper mythology isn't so much about the killer or the victims. It's about the unknown...the paranoia...the thrilling moment at the heart of What If?

Maybe it's the human desire to understand. To find an end. And, when that fails, to make stuff up.

;)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

This week's question comes from YA Highway:

WHAT IS THE FUNNIEST BOOK YOU'VE EVER READ?

Kristan: Amelia Bedelia. Those books cracked me up as a kid. And I still smile just thinking about them today.

Sarah: ROUND IRELAND WITH A FRIDGE by Tony Hawks.

Amelia Bedelia Round Ireland with a Fridge

Stephanie: The problem with reading mostly fantasy, is that so much of it takes itself so seriously. So not a lot of funny. Maybe Harry Potter?

Kristan: Definitely Harry Potter! Good one. And I love books/authors that aren't really trying to be funny, but allow humor to come through naturally (either through dialogue, or through astute observations about the world).

Kristan: Along those lines, the funniest book I've read lately is probably LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell. She's so good at letting life's absurdities shine through, even when they're not the point of her story.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1) Landline

Ingrid: THE PRINCESS BRIDE, hands down. The movie is funny too, but as usual, there is so much more in the book.

Ingrid: Oh, and there was also a lot of subtle, delightful humor in LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE by Laura Esquivel.

The Princess Bride Like Water for Chocolate

You: Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Quick happy note: The winner of our August commenter giveaway is Mary @ The Book Swarm. Congratulations! We'll email you to figure out which book you'd like and where to send it.

Now if only someone wanted to send these books to us...

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My PrettyPOISONED APPLES (Poems for You, My Pretty) = fairytales + feminism + social commentary + poetry. UM, SIGN US UP! What a clever way to talk about the problems that girls face in today's society. Christine Heppermann explains her personal motivations for writing this collection in her eloquent, powerful Author's Note.

I'll Give You the SunAlso: ERMAGAWD NEW JANDY NELSON! Enough said.

100 Sideways MilesWe have an Andrew Smith fangirl over here (cough Sarah cough) so 100 SIDEWAYS MILES has been on our radar forever. Isn't it a magical feeling when a book that you've been anticipating for so long is finally on the bookshelf at your favorite store?

Lies We Tell OurselvesLIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley is October's YA Diversity Book Club mix, but we're including it now because it releases at the end of September. The story mixes history, race, and sexuality in a way that promises to be beautiful, compelling, and possibly heartbreaking.

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American VoicesLast but not least, this unusual book caught our eye on NetGalley. DREAMING IN INDIAN is a nonfiction anthology featuring contemporary Native American voices. Using both prose and visual art, the book hopes to challenge stereotypes and unveil a more genuine Native experience.

Of course there are so many other books we're looking forward to, but we can't spotlight them all.

What about you guys? What books are you looking forward to this month? (If you need a list, here's one on GoodReads.)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Over on my personal blog, there is a recurring feature called Reading Reflections, in which I share quotes from a recent read, and also share what those quotes inspired me to think about. Today, I am borrowing that feature for We Heart YA, and using it to spotlight the latest YA Diversity Book Club selection, I LOVE I HATE I MISS MY SISTER by Amélie Sarn.

I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister Eighteen-year-old Sohane loves no one more than her beautiful, carefree younger sister, Djelila. And she hates no one as much. The two have always shared everything. But now, Djelila is embracing her life as a secular teen, and Sohane is becoming more religious.

Every choice has a price.

When Sohane starts wearing a head scarf, her school insists that she remove it or she’ll be expelled. Meanwhile, Djelila is repeatedly harassed by neighborhood bullies for not following Muslim customs. Sohane can’t help thinking that Djelila deserves what she gets. She never could have imagined just how far things would go.

I love I hate I miss my sister.

In the year following Djelila’s tragic death, Sohane struggles with her feelings of loss and guilt, revealing a complex relationship between two sisters, each girl’s path to self-discovery, and the consequences they face for being true to themselves.


* * *

"Feminism is not a fight; it's a way of life."

I love that line. Because it is so true, and yet so often forgotten.

I also love the way that the author showed both sisters, Djelila and Sohane, as being feminist in their own (opposite) ways.

Right now, at least from what I see on the internet, there's a lot of confusion and inconsistency about what feminism is and how feminists should express themselves. (In fact, I just read a great op-ed about that, and about people's reactions to Beyoncé vs. Sofia Vergara.)

When I'm unsure of myself I wrap my arguments in beautiful sentences.

I have to admit, I do this too. It is amazing how much of a difference eloquence can make. Maybe that's part of what draws so many of us to books and reading and writing. Words can weave a certain kind of magic, and beauty in any form is persuasive, seductive.

I can't say that this isn't a reality. But it's only one reality among many.

Reality. Truth. Perspective. They're not quite the same things, but they're definitely related.

For me, one of the most important aspects of growing up has been the realization that there can be more than one truth, more than one "right" answer, more than one reality. Two people can look at the same set of facts and draw completely different conclusions. And neither of them are necessarily wrong. Two people can experience the exact same thing and be affected in totally unique ways.

Come to think of it, that's what diversity is all about, isn't it?

* * *

Don't forget to check out the other YA Diversity Book Club posts about I LOVE I HATE I MISS MY SISTER:

••• Our group chat about the book can be found at the Reading Date. We cover the story's real life inspiration, its literary style, the characters, their relationships, and more!

••• Teen Lit Rocks talks about "The French Connection," and how ILIHIMMS made her think about how minorities in other countries are treated and depicted.

Also, our September selection is KNOCKOUT GAMES by G. Neri. Please feel free to read along with us!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Another great question from YA Highway this week -- and funny timing, because just yesterday the four of us were discussing what Hogwarts houses we would have been sorted into. (Lots of Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws over here, for what it's worth...)

WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOUR PATRONUS BE?


Sarah: Panda. :)
Kristan: Of the kung-fu variety, perhaps?
Sarah: Of course.
Kristan: I think mine would either be a dog or a horse. They're both strong, loyal, and beautiful creatures.


Sarah: I definitely think dog for you.
Sarah: Mountain lion for Ingrid, and pegasus for Steph.
Stephanie: Ooh, yes! Pegasus for me!


Ingrid: Hee! This is fun. I agree with panda and dog. For Steph, Pegasus yes or something graceful like a swan. I am not fierce enough for a mountain lion, I don't think! I really loooove sea otters though. They represent primal female energy, joy, and playfulness. :)


And what about you, dear readers? Join the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


It's back-to-school time! And while kiddos across the land lament, I find myself excited for that fresh start... that new-year feeling when schedules change and ideas bubble and anything seems possible.

Even though it has been quite a while since I had academic responsibilities, this time of year always makes me want to read and learn and hang out in libraries and bookstores. So to replenish and get ready for the season, today I thought I'd share some photos of really cool book nooks with y'all.... 

flavorwire.com
How amazing is this outdoor library? I hope they cover these when it starts to rain!

rembex.com

tobeshelved.tumblr.com



Love these cozy spaces for curling up with a good book...


tinywhitedaisies.com






teachingliteracy.tumblr.com
retreatbyrandomhouse.ca











phulme.wordpress.com







highdollardesigner.com
 Messy bookshelves are the best! They're so Harry-Potter-ish.

bluepueblo.tumblr.com
Aren't these great spaces for reading and writing and imagining? Which do you like best? Send us a pic of your favorite book nook. We'd love to see it.

Until next time, happy reading :)
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about us

Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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