A Community of Artists

Once is a touching movie about musicians and art and connection. It’s now a stage musical, and recently the touring company invited amateur musicians in to sing “Falling Slowly” with them.

Walt shared the video with me this morning, and it got me kind of teary, seeing all these musicians of all ages and backgrounds and levels of professional status in the same space, sharing their art and making something wonderful together as a little community.

Writing and publishing as a career can be hard. But one thing I’m always grateful for–the people. I’m so grateful to be part of a community of writers and readers and librarians and educators and bloggers and fans. From across the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, from major bestselling authors to first draft-ers, from experienced bloggers to people who have just found YA, it’s uplifting and exciting to share our stories and our experiences, either in person or online.

So no matter where you are in your writing journey or your reading life, thank you for being part of this community. Your voice matters.

Writing with Headphones

Today I’m over at OneFour Kidlit talking about how I created a playlist for The Chance You Won’t Return and why that helped me through the writing process. (Plus gifs, of course.)

Another song that felt just right for The Chance You Won’t Return was “Simple Song” by the Shins:

I especially like the chorus: “Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough, to play like a stone / Could be there’s nothing else in our lives so critical / As this little home!” It totally reminds me of Alex trying to hide all the drama at home from her boyfriend and friends. And the song itself has that great forward momentum that I associate with a lot of the songs from the TCYWR playlist.

Do you associate certain songs with your books/characters? Share them in the comments!

My Teen Years in the Handbell Choir: a Christmas Eve Story

When I was a teen, I was part of my church’s handbell choir. (Try to out-nerd me, please.) I’m not that musical (or musical at all really), but I learned to read music so I could join the handbell choir because, at 12 or 13, it sounded like the most awesome thing to do. I ended up sticking with it until I went to college, so it was a relatively big part of my teen experience.

Being part of handbell choir meant performing at the Christmas midnight mass. My mom would drop me off about an hour before mass started and I’d run up to the choir loft, which was filled with people from the handbell choir and the vocal choir. While the vocalists practiced, I’d admire the decorations around the church and watch people take their seats.

We’d usually play a couple of songs during mass, but my favorite was the “Silent Night,” which we’d play after Communion. They’d turn the lights down in the church so everything glowed with candlelight. Up in the choir loft, we began “Silent Night” on the bells, then were joined by the piano, then the choir. Every year it felt intimate and special and Christmas-y.

This isn’t my handbell choir, but the arrangement of the bells is pretty similar:

I don’t play handbells or any musical instrument now, but Christmas Eve always reminds me of playing “Silent Night.” It brings me back to being a teen, hidden up in the choir loft, and feeling a part of something special for that moment.

Happy Christmas Eve to everyone celebrating!

“Heads Will Roll” on Halloween

Happy Halloween, everybody! In case you couldn’t guess by my Twitter feed today (or really, this month), I’m a big fan of Halloween-ish music. Who needs Christmas carols when you have classics like “The Monster Mash” and the Ghostbusters theme song?

One of my current favorite creepy songs is “Heads Will Roll” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The video is really fun, too:

Similarly, I like when Halloween pops up in books/movies otherwise not about Halloween. The Chance You Won’t Return has a Halloween scene, and has been there since the first draft. So much of the book is about who you present yourself as and who you really are, which meant that having a Halloween scene seemed necessary. Other favorite books with Halloween scenes include:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
    Class halloween parties are great until there’s a troll in the dungeon. Who doesn’t love the moment when Harry, Ron, and Hermione become friends?
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
    So much of the book feels like summer to me, but the last terrifying and beautiful scene is set on Halloween night.
  • The Egypt Game
    Halloween is when the group takes its full form, with Toby and Ken joining. This book feels like fall to me.

Hope you all have a fun and spoooooky night!

Composers and Writers

People closest to me know that a) I’m not musical, and b) I really wish I were musical. But that doesn’t mean I can’t take inspiration from famous composers! Here’s a collection of great quotes from composers about making art. A few of my favorites:

“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts – such is the duty of the artist.”–Robert Schumann

I love this idea and this image. I feel this connects especially well to YA, which is so often about first encounters with despair and grief and pain, but ultimately also hope and love.

“The old idea of a composer suddenly having a terrific idea and sitting up all night to write it is nonsense. Nighttime is for sleeping.”–Benjamin Britten

Okay, everyone’s process and schedule is different. Some people work late into the night, and others get up super early in the morning to get work done. But a) I love sleep, and b) for me, lots of writing happens when I make myself sit down and work, not when inspiration suddenly strikes. The “feverish writing all night” image is kind of romantic, but I think it neglects the work that writers put in day-to-day.

“Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.”–Johannes Brahms

In a similar vein, I love this focus on craftsmanship. You can have the best idea in the world, but it takes work and craft and thought to bring it to life on the page.

Click through for more composer quotes.

(image: crazybobbles)

Unintentional Book Soundtracks

This morning I was headed into work and “King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men came on:

I started singing along, and about halfway through I realized that this song reminded me so much of Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness books, particularly the relationship between Alanna and Prince/King Jonathan. They go through a lot together, including defending the kingdom, and I feel like the song really captures a sense of love and loyalty.

However, I’m guessing Of Monsters and Men wasn’t inspired by this fantastic series. (If they were, please let me know because that would be so freaking awesome.) But it made me think about the songs that remind me of books, even if there isn’t a direct tie or inspiration. A few other songs I inexplicably tie to books:

“Middle Cyclone” by Neko Case
Makes me think of: The Hunger Games
Why: Because it’s about someone who knows that, despite having to stay strong and appear cold, deeply needs to be with someone who loves them. Which is why, even though I was totally Team Gale, I think Peeta is the right choice for Katniss.
Key lyrics: “I can’t give up acting tough / It’s all that I’m made of / Can’t scrape together quite enough / To ride the bus to the outskirts of the fact that I need love”

“Some Night” by Fun
Makes me think of: Hamlet
Why: Having a ghost hanging over you.
Key lyrics: “But I still wake up, I still see your ghost / But, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for, oh / What do I stand for? What do I stand for?”

“Man on Fire” by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
Makes me think of: Tuck Everlasting
Why: This one’s probably the most random. It’s not about everlasting life or death, but I feel like there’s a sense in the song of being someone outside of society, who wants to make people understand what it is to truly live life. I feel like that sense of appreciation for life is very much apart of the Tucks, particular Tuck himself.
Key lyrics: “Only one desire / That’s left in me / I want the whole damn world / To come and dance with me”

Are there any songs you associate with books, even if there’s no actual connection?