Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Saturday, December 6, 2014
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
It's important for writers, educators, and book lovers to make our voices heard not just during Banned Books Week, but anytime books are threatened; we're not just protecting books for ourselves, but for generations to come. There is so much danger in this world, and we shouldn't teach our children that books, that ideas and cultures and beliefs different than our own, are part of that.
I credit books for molding me into who I am today - not just a teacher and a writer, but someone in love with ideas, someone hungry for rich worlds not found outside my window, a person curious about ideas not normally championed by the masses. Who would I be if someone else had closed the curtains on the worlds I grew up with and silenced the voices that whispered to me when I felt alone?
I looked at the list of the top 100 books banned during the 90s. I was in school then and wondered what books I might have missed if book banning had been allowed to impact me. On the list were books that always are: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Wrinkle in Time. But there were two books on the list that had a profound impact on me when I first read them. One was Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume. I read this book at a time when I wasn't sure it was okay to be me, when I was embarrassed about normal biological changes that were outside of my control. I read this at a time when the world said I should be ashamed. The book made me cringe, made me laugh, but above all, the book showed me that I was not alone in what I was feeling. I needed that more than anything.
Another was On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. I was shocked to find this on the list because I felt that this book belonged just to me. I think I was in sixth grade when my grandmother gave me this book. It was the first signed book I ever owned, and the first time I realized that authors were real people, not larger-than-life immortals who lived on some distant mountain. The book is about a boy who watches his friend drown, and it was the first book I remember making me cry. I've read this book again and again, and I sobbed each and every time.
We need to prevent our children from embracing hatred and ignorance. We must teach them to ask questions, to listen to diverse voices, and to work for a better world. We can do this in part by allowing them to read that which speaks to them.
Let's not snatch books out of the hands of our children. Who knows what they'll pick up to replace them.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Monday, September 1, 2014
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Now I know many of you are already wondering - 2016? Isn't it still 2014? (Sometimes I think it's still 2004.) :) The way this program works is that they release the list now in order to promote the books during 2015. We want our teens here in Louisiana to get a chance to read all of these books. Then they will vote for their favorite at the beginning of 2016, and the winner will be announced in February 2016. It's an amazing program through the Louisiana State Library system. My own students and high school book club (which I sponsor) read the lists every year. (We're currently working our way through the 2015 list.)
I'm super excited and honored to have been named to the list among authors I admire.
Saturday, August 2, 2014
|It's time for Pitchwars - |
hold on tight!
No matter what the genre, I'm only looking for young adult.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Saturday, June 28, 2014
I'm thrilled and excited and humbled by the award. Reclaimed is my debut, so obviously it has a special place in my heart, but I also always believed in this book, even when it looked like it might get tucked away into a drawer.
The summer I revised Reclaimed was one of the best ever. I finished the draft in the spring of 2011, then let it sit until I was out of school. That summer I learned that a crappy draft really could be transformed into a readable manuscript. I learned about patience, and killing your darlings, and the joy that comes with finally getting the words to truly convey what the characters are feeling. It was such a wonderful experience watching that ugly draft change into something I was proud of. For the first time, I wanted people to read something I had written.
So if you are discouraged, keep at it. Know that the hard work will pay off in one way or another. For a year I couldn't get anyone interested in reading Reclaimed. Then I had a full request from Spencer Hill Press and an offer for publication one week later. I had an editor who understood my book and loved it almost as much as I did. Reclaimed had a home.
And now, Reclaimed has won its second award.
Thank you to everyone who has read and loved Reclaimed. You have a special place in my heart as well.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
"The character is dealing with the death of a parent or sibling. That's so cliché."
"Another story with an alcoholic family member. How cliché."
"Yet another tale dealing with abuse. Cliché."
I understand that readers get bored of seeing the same things over and over again in fiction. But let me tell you a story.
One day, when discussing a novel, a student lamented the fact that she had just read yet another novel where the character was dealing with the death of a sibling. "That's so cliché," she said.
And the girl next to her flinched. Cliché girl had forgotten that her fellow student had lost her brother to suicide just the year before. How convenient. I promise you, the student who lost her brother won't ever forget. And reducing down her very real conflicts to a cliché is harmful.
I've been a reader for a very long time. It's easy to forget that new readers are born every single day. What we've seen often, they're encountering for the first time. But many of them, unfortunately, may actually be dealing with the day to day reality of the events we only know about through books.
In my experience, literature leans in and whispers in my ear. I understand. I've been there. It's okay. It's one of the reasons I read. And things become cliché because they are true. So before we easily dismiss something, we should remember that while it may not speak to us, it probably speaks to someone.
It illuminates a truth he has never heard before. It reminds a reader she is not alone.
We must never make a person feel cliché.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Contemporary writers get asked this question a lot, I assume more so than other writers. I doubt J.K. Rowling has been asked whether or not she is secretly part of the wizarding community. (Though many people did assume Harry was based on a real person.) It seems that some readers have a hard time believing that characters, and their situations, are actually fictional.
But they are.
I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, and I've lost count of the number of people who've told me they tried to figure out who my characters are in real life. My characters are based on no one and everyone. I've never modeled a character after anyone, but I have used what I know about the world to hopefully create dynamic characters.
I wrote a guest post about this back in October, but I thought it was worth mentioning again. Pops is not my grandfather, and I don't write my students into novels.
But characters are real, in the sense that readers make them so. And isn't that the best part about reading?
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Also honored to learn that Reclaimed has been named a finalist for the 2013 Foreword Book of the Year. See the full list of young adult fiction finalists here.
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Monday, March 3, 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
March 8, 2014: NOVA Teen Book Festival
I'm so excited about this event! I get to see my amazing editor Danielle Ellison, as well as meet up with other authors and fellow readers.
From 11:00-11:45 AM I'll be participating in a panal with Lamar Giles and Ellen Oh entitled "Who Are You." It deals with identify and destiny. After the event ends, we will be signing books at the Arlington Central Library. Check out the schedule to see the incredible line-up. Don't miss it!
April 5, 2014, 2:00 PM: Signing at Baton Rouge Citiplace Barnes and Noble
June 2-6, 2014: LSU Young Adult Literature Conference and Seminar
Friday, February 14, 2014
|The husband gave me beautiful |
roses today. He's my Valentine too,
but he'll have to share me with books.
Books are my Valentine.
They comfort me when I am sad and cheer me up after a hard day. They take me on extravagant trips. They've never abandoned me.
Books have given me a lifetime of happiness and never asked for anything in return. I'm grateful.
In honor of Valentine's day, here are just a few books I've fallen in love with recently.
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
I read this in one sitting. Be prepared.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
King creates such great characters. I was totally immersed in this story and read it in just a couple of days.
The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova
This was a re-read. I read this back when it came out, and then re-read over my snow days. This is such a beautiful story. I'll read it many more times I'm sure.
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I love any book set in a bookstore.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
I also read this one straight through. I loved it so much and can't believe it took me this long to get to it!
Today a student asked me what my favorite love story was. While I truly can't choose a favorite anything when it comes to books, I do love Elizabeth and Darcy of Pride and Prejudice.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Monday, February 3, 2014
|Me, seconds before crossing the finish line|
of my seventh marathon. See that crazy
look in my eye?
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Friday, January 24, 2014
Thursday, January 2, 2014
So many people have asked about a sequel to Reclaimed. Teachers and students
At first I was shocked people expected a sequel. To me, the story ends exactly where it needs to. The main conflicts are resolved and, in my mind, the characters are happy. (Or as happy as they can be considering the situations I put them in.) Then, I was flattered. That readers connect with and love my characters enough to want more is the best feeling an author can have. Sharing your characters with the world can be frightening, but when readers love them as much as you do, it’s worth it.