Saturday, April 27, 2013

To Wait and Wait Some More

Writers sort of live in perpetual Groundhog’s Day. We wake up, we wait, we go to sleep, and then it starts all over again.

If you want to be published, then you’d better get used to waiting. If you can’t make peace with the waiting, it may very well drive you insane. Well, more than you already are. And if you’re a writer, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

We wait to hear back from CPs. To hear back from agents. We wait while on submission. Once the manuscript sells, we wait months to finally be able to tell the world that all our dreams have come true. That’s a tough one, not renting out a billboard and announcing it to the world. But we have to wait.

Then we wait for edits. We wait to see if our editor likes our edits. We wait for more edits, and copy edits, and blurbs.

We wait for arcs and reviews. (But we definitely don’t read them.)

We wait for release day, and reader feedback, and accolades and contentment and peace. Sometimes we wait a long time.



So if you are in the perpetual cycle of wait, what do you do in the meantime? You write something new, take a walk, enjoy someone else’s words for a while.

You don’t refresh your email fifteen times in an hour. (I have never, ever done that.)

You don’t let the waiting take over your life.

You can’t be afraid to move forward. It’s what you have to do.

So give yourself a break – you deserve it. Then write another book. And then the waiting begins all over again.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Letting Go

Reclaimed will be out in the world in six months, and while I am filled with excitement, there is also an overwhelming fear because I will no longer have control over it. I wonder if this is the same fear that many parents feel as they push their little ones out of the house and onto the school bus that first day of kindergarten.  As they carry yet another box into their child’s dorm room.  I have nurtured this book and now it will soon be out of my hands and to me, that is so totally exhilarating and at the same time so totally terrifying that I find myself wanting to jump up and down in joy while screaming in sheer terror.


I am someone who fears.  As a child, I feared failure enough that I didn’t always do things that I thought would be interesting solely because there was no guarantee I would be any good at them.  I missed out on a lot of fun and adventure because I chose to only do those things which I knew I could. 

At a very young age I was afraid of writing.  Or rather, I was afraid of others reading my writing.  I was afraid they would think it was horrible. That I was. I was afraid they would think I actually thought I was good when it was so obvious I wasn’t.  I was afraid of their rejection or their pity.  I was stupid.

Conquering those things we once thought impossible makes us better. It teaches us humility and shows us how exhilarating, how spectacular, how truly terrifying life can be.

Maybe I am the only one who feels this way.  I doubt it.  I am sure that even those calm, collected authors have a tiny moment of panic when they realize they can’t revise that scene anymore, tweak that sentence.  When they realize that their flaws as a writer will be on display for everyone to see, that their baby, a printed, black and white piece of their soul, will be examined and picked over. Except that is exactly what I want – for someone else to know and love my characters, for someone else to get chills during that scene or laugh out loud just like I did when writing it.  Writers want their books to do for their readers what countless other books have done for them – transport them, entertain them, show truth in fiction.

Because that’s why I write.  I write because I love books.  So for all of you writers out there who have gotten past that fear and shared your books with the world – thanks.  I am who I am because of countless authors who were brave enough to create art and then let it out into the world.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Interview with Author Leigh Ann Kopans

Today I have an interview with the lovely Leigh Ann Kopans. Leigh Ann is a prolific writer who manages to not only write good books, but also raise four kids and support other writers in the writing community. Her debut novel, One, releases June 11. Emily, a student of mine, reviewed it, then interviewed Leigh Ann.
Hi Emily! Thanks so much for taking the time to read One and interview me! It makes me so happy when teens read my books. <3

1. Where did the inspiration for One come from – a love of superheroes, genetics, both?
Pretty much just the first one. ;) I grew up watching X-men on Saturday mornings, and obsessed over the intricacies of each superpower. I remember thinking that it was so awesome that Wolverine had metal-plated bones, but his *real* superpower was that he healed quickly. It got me thinking about the different components that would make up different abilities, and that was an idea that stuck with me for years and years.

THEN I found out that there was this emerging scientific field called epigenetics – Google it  - that basically mean that people’s genes can evolve within generations. So those two ideas combined made up the basis for ONE’s plot.

2.  While you were writing Merrin’s character, did you see any aspects of yourself?
Oh, for sure. I like to think that her reluctance to be satisfied with what everyone else told her she had to accept came from my personality.

3.  Which character did you relate to the most?
That’s actually a really tough question! I think I relate a little bit to each of them, but probably most of all Merrin. She cares deeply about stuff but doesn’t wear her heart on her sleeve.

4.  If you were a Super, what powers would you want to have?
My first thought is mind-reading but I can’t stand it when I know people are upset with me or thinking bad things about me. And since I’m an author AND a campus professional AND a mom of four, I think the best super power for me to have would be either super speed (so I could write faster) or the ability to never, ever have to sleep. Which would also have to come with infinite energy.

5.  Do you have any other book ideas for after Two is published?
Yes! I have a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park about mathletes called SOLVING FOR EX ready to be published, and I’ll probably release a companion to that called FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS,  about a girl whose dad addresses her penchant for running up his credit card by sending her on a year-long service trip.

I also have a sci-fi retelling of the Exodus coming up called CHROME, and a time travel romance called THE TRAVELERS.

And, of course, if ONE and TWO do well, I can write lots more stories about the characters
I’m so excited about all of them!

6.  Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No, actually! I only started writing a few years ago when I was out of work for a year and CRAZY bored at home with my kids. So I think it shows that you can start any time, and really learn, if you put your mind to it.

7.  Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
I think the big thing is just to sit down and do it. Your first draft is allowed to suck, in a technical sense, so focus on doing what only you can do – pour your story onto paper.  Your love and enthusiasm will shine through on the page.

When you’re ready to share your work, find critique partners who will be honest and supportive at the same time. Learn together about the technicalities of writing – finding your voice, cutting adverbs, writing believable dialogue, pinpointing the perfect pacing, and showing, not telling. Get involved in the writing community online, because it’s amazing. And it’s all uphill from there!

I would like to thank Leigh Ann for stopping by. Y'all, I was lucky enough to get to read One early, and believe me, you'll want to check it out.
You can find Leigh Ann at or on Twitter @LeighAnnKopans.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Teen Perspective: A Review of ONE by Leigh Ann Kopans

Leigh Ann Kopans provided me with a couple of ARCS of her upcoming novel One so that I could put them in the high school library where I teach. (Also, isn't that the most gorgeous cover you've ever seen?) Yesterday one of the boys in my class borrowed my copy, and today I had to fuss at him for reading it instead of listening to my lesson. Seeing my students unable to put down a book makes me supremely happy. 

Emily is also one of my students, an avid reader and one of my favorite people to sit around and discuss books with. Read her review and you'll know why.

Okay, this is my first time writing a review of this scale, for a book that hasn’t been released yet and all that jazz, and I have to admit, it was pretty freakin’ awesome.  One by Leigh Ann Kopans was gifted to me, and I devoured it in two days. The story opens with Merrin Grey preparing to switch from her former high school Superior High, alma mater of Supers (those with a genetic code that gives them Super gifts like flying, teleportation, and combustibility) to the much more normal Nelson High. Her problem, you see, is that she’s a One, only having half of the two gifts she needs to have a complete Super. In her case, she has the ability to float, missing another One that would allow her to fly. This inability leaves her outcast and bitter, the actual epitome of teen angst (which I shouldn’t have identified with as much as I did).

Almost immediately upon entering Nelson High, Merrin finds herself in the presence of the perfect and wonderful Elias VanDyne, another One like herself. Even though I normally detest insta-love, Elias was pretty fantastic, so I could let it slide just this once, especially since there was a far greater reason for their attraction than the fact that they both thought the other was the modern-day Adonis and Aphrodite.

Even though there were times when I actually wanted to reach into the pages and strangle Merrin, I could understand why she was scared and angry at points. Seriously, the girl had a ton going on, besides the fact that she was a sixteen-year-old outcast discovering the delicate beginnings of young love or whatever happens when you want to kiss a really hot guy who sort of completes you.

The conflict, although introduced a little bit too late, was really interesting to me, in which science exploration and the thirst for knowledge played the part of the antagonist. The last 25% of the book was impossible to stop reading, especially as Merrin risks so much to save those she loves.

So, yes I would recommend this book, especially to fans of superheroes who don’t get nauseous whenever happy love emotions are mentioned and know what it’s like to wish to fly.  
Check back later for an interview Emily did with the amazing Leigh Ann Kopans.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Read This Book!

I’m an advocate for books. It’s what I do. It’s what I’m known for. I became a teacher because I wanted to share my passion for books with others, hoping they would fall in love with reading too. I am so enthusiastic about books I love that I do little happy dances and tell people if they don’t read that book right now they are missing out on life and happiness.

When friends or family want a good book, they ask me. I’ve never left a doctor’s office without recommending at least two books to pretty much every single person I talk to. I read while waiting in the doctor’s office, which means the nurse always wants to talk to me about books. If it is a doctor I visit often, they start asking for recommendations the moment they see me. Once the doctor comes in, we usually spend more time talking books than about what I’ve come into the office for. And I love every single minute of it.

When I talk books, I talk about the ones I love. The ones that kept me up at night, that were the reason my husband had to dig out his oldest pair of jeans because nothing else was clean, the reason I considered playing hooky from work just to stay home and read all day. I talk about the ones that made me cry. Made me laugh. Made me read them several times.

Because this is what we do when we love books. We want others to love them too. I don’t recommend books I don’t like, the ones I can’t finish, the ones I toss aside in disgust. Yes, I’ve read plenty like that. But no one wants to hear about those. They want to hear about the ones I loved so that maybe they will fall in love too.

So that is why I only review books I like, and that is why if you check out my Goodreads, you’ll only see 4s and 5s. No, not every book I read gets 4s and 5s. Sometimes I’ll go a couple of months without updating because I don’t love the books I’m reading. I decided a while back that I would only talk about those books I would recommend to others. That’s what I do.

I do believe there is a need for critical reviews. I have plenty of opinions about why books didn’t work for me. I discuss those with my book club or friends who have read the same book. I adore critical book discussions, picking apart the character development, voice, plot. But my blog reviews and Goodreads were created to get others to read. I sort of feel like that’s my calling.

So here are a few of the books that I love. And keep checking out my blog or Goodreads if you want to hear about more.

A few of my favorites:

IT by Stephen King
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness
REBECCA by Dauphne du Maurier
FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury
Anything Jane Austen, but particulary PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
THE SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafron

HARRY POTTER by JK Rowling (obviously)
JELLICOE ROAD by Marlina Marchetta
CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers
SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson
JUST ONE DAY by Gayle Foreman

(And I’m going to stop there because once I started making this list it started getting out of hand. How do you pick your favorite books?!)

Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Musical Muse

Music has the ability to transport me places just like books do. And sometimes, when I combine a book and music together, they will always remind me of each other. I talked about that a little here. Now, whenever I hear “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles, I am immediately back in that scene of The Hounds of the Morrigan.

The other day, “Welcome Home” by Radical Face came on. I immediately got the chills and had to stop what I was doing to listen, because I was all of a sudden plunged back into Reclaimed.

I listened to that song over and over again while I was doing revisions on Reclaimed. Now, when I hear the song, I see my characters. I see the town of Solitude, where the story is set. I see the lake and the trees, Jenna’s Bronco, the old rail yard. I see Ian and Luke. When I hear the song, I'm in the story again, and I love it. It’s the sound of October to me, the month when Reclaimed begins, as well as the month I was revising. Now that song makes my heart ache, because I feel for my characters and their struggles, and it beats a little faster too, because soon readers will know those struggles as well.

I also love hearing a song for the first time and being swept away by how its voice is the voice of one of my characters. This happened just a few weeks ago, the first time I ever heard “Too Late” by Wes Kirkpatrick. The song hadn’t played for more than a few seconds before I felt too full, like my heart was pressing against my ribs. I know that’s a bit melodramatic, but I’m serious. I heard this song and I was caught up in the emotional struggle of the male main character in my current WIP. I felt everything he feels in the manuscript, and all of those feelings rushing toward me at once was a bit overwhelming. It was so him that I fell in love with this character all over again.

Music is the soul to my writing. My playlists aren’t so much what my characters would like or listen to, but more the singing of their souls, so that as I am writing them, I am hearing them cry out, begging me to listen, pleading for their stories to be told. All I can do is crank up the music and hang on tight. I never know where their stories are going to take me. But I do know that when I hear that song again, I can always revisit that journey.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Childhood Revisited: Angelle T. reviews MICK HARTE WAS HERE

It was fifth grade in Mrs. Crockett’s class that I was given Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. I wasn't the biggest reader at that time, only my precious Dear Dumb Diary books that were mostly illustrations. I still remember flipping it over and reading the description about a girl who has to deal with the grief of her brother Mick’s death. I had never read anything serious at that point in my life and the book seemed daunting.
Once we started, I couldn't put it down and finished the book so impressed. I saw reading in a whole new light. This book not only got me reading but shaped the way I read. First of all I have to thank Mrs. Crockett for letting us read this as fifth graders. This book definitely pushed the limits of my fifth grade mind. It talked about curse words, death, and even questioning God. I know that sounds inappropriate, but it wasn't at all. Barbara Park did such a great job of putting these harsh subjects out in a friendly way, through the voice of Phoebe, who is actually me in an alternate fictional universe (awesome). Even though she was fourteen, which seemed really old at the time, Barbara made her relatable to me, then and to this day, as I reread it as a totally sophisticated 16 year old. She didn't shove things down your throat. You didn't have to agree with the things Phoebe did or the way she thought during her time of grief. This was just her story that you happened to be reading. It was all up to your discretion.
I appreciate being challenged with this at a young age because it made me always look for things in books that made me uncomfortable but intrigued and showed me things I haven't experienced. As I was reading it again, it really dawned on me how Phoebe being such a strong female lead is parallel to all of the books I really love today. She dealt with things her own way and matured as the book went on. She was a dynamic character, which is something I look for in the main characters of the books I read today. This book challenged me to think in ways I never had. It showed me how reading can make you feel something. It was the first time I had ever cried while reading, and that was an amazing thing to me. Re reading it yesterday, I cried even more. I think being older and having experienced much more in life, her grief was something I could relate to and feel along with her. I had a whole new appreciation for the book and its messages. Don't get me wrong, this isn't just a sad book; in fact, it's pretty funny. Phoebe's dry humor in her time of grief kept her going, which I really related to and appreciated. It kept me interested the whole time, which is a pretty big deal to be able to keep a ten year old’s attention, but this book did it in a way that felt very natural.
This book taught me to appreciate a constant flow and quality story line in the books I read.  An aspect that really stood out to me when I read it again was how the ending wasn’t picture perfect because, well, that’s life. But that’s what made it a great book. I don’t think as a ten year old that I had ever read a book before that didn’t end in smiles and laughter before fading to black. This one was different. I have to believe that it shaped my perspective of books. I can’t tell you the last time I really enjoyed a book ending with everyone’s problems solved. After reading this book, a door was opened in my mind to what a really meaningful reading experience could be, growing as a person through the words of others, and that has made all the difference.
Angelle is a high school student who has participated before in my Teen Perspective reviews. She often sings lines from A Very Potter Musical, much to both the annoyance and amusement of her yearbook teacher (i.e., me).

Monday, April 1, 2013

Childhood Revisited: My Review of THE HOUNDS OF THE MORRIGAN

I want to thank everyone who participated in the Childhood Revisited blog series. I really enjoyed reading reviews of book I fell in love with as a child - they made me want to re-read them all.

My copy of the book has been taped back
together more than once.

My love affair with The Hounds of the Morrigan began in fourth grade. It was the biggest book in our school library, and I had always had a thing for weighty tomes. I gained an enormous sense of satisfaction when I finished long books, but it also meant I could live in their world a little bit longer.

We visited the library every two weeks, so at the end of the two weeks, I was disappointed when I had to return the book. I begged my parents to buy it for me for Christmas, and I was thrilled when it was propped against the fireplace on Christmas morning. I finished it fairly quickly after that, so enamoured was I with the characters and their quest to basically save the world. There is one particular moment that I can recall as vividly today as if it just happened. I was lying on my bed reading this book with the radio on in the background. “Eternal Flame” by the Bangles came on (you read that right - the Bangles), and the mood and tone of the song so perfectly fit the scene I was reading that I seriously felt as if my heart were too big for my chest. That is the first time I really remember being so moved, so caught up in a story that the words felt more real than reality. I had always been able to lose myself in a good book, but this was so beyond that.

The Hounds of the Morrigan follows ten-year-old Pidge and his five-year-old sister Bridget. They have been recruited to go on a quest to find a stone with the Morrigan’s blood on it. If she finds it first, the world will be doomed. They are followed along the way by the Morrigan’s hounds, who can scent them but are not allowed to actually hunt them unless the children run in front of them. I always felt such fear for the kids, as I knew how badly they wanted to run but couldn’t. They are helped along the way many times by both man and beast, and must outwit the Morrigan as she uses her magic to prevent them from finding the pebble first.

This book was released in 1985, well before Harry Potter, and I loved the fantasy and magic and danger. I had never read a book like it. At the time I believed the children to be in a completely new world, but in re-reading it, I realized they are in Ireland. (Which is fantastical enough for me.) Most of the story’s characters are based on Celtic mythology, and I do wish I knew a little bit more about that. I think that would make the story even better.

As a child I loved the stories and characters, particularly Roo, the Fox. I have read this book more times than I can remember, but this is the first time I’ve re-read this book since becoming serious about my writing. This time around I was more interested in O’Shea’s writing. I’m sure part of that had to do with the fact that I know this story so well. But O’Shea does a wonderful job with voice. The story is told in third-person POV, and many times we are in Pidge’s head. He, and his little sister, seem much wiser and more mature than their age. But somehow O’Shea still manages to keep a child’s voice without sacrificing language. She does not dumb down her vocabulary or really even simplify her sentence structure. The dialogue, particularly when Bridge is speaking, still makes me giggle.

The Hounds of the Morrigan is one of those books that feel like they belong just to me. I’ve never met anyone else, besides my sister, who has read this book. If you have, I would love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t – well, I guess I can share.