The No-Guilt Approach to Reading YA

Every so often, people write disparaging articles about YA and the adults who enjoy the category. One such article came out recently, in which the author claimed that adults should feel guilty for reading these books and that they don’t approach literature the way books for adults do. (Not going to link to said post here, because it’s click-bait-y and I don’t want to give them more traffic.)

This month at Ploughshares, I tackle the issue of YA as a literary genre and why readers shouldn’t feel guilty to reading wonderful books, no matter what their target age audience is.

Also I get to make references to both Faulkner and Mean Girls.

I’m sure all of my readers already know this, but no one should make you feel guilty for reading things you enjoy, whether that’s YA and children’s literature or graphic novels or sci-fi or romance or anything. Life’s too short to read books you don’t love.

Libraries Are for Everyone

A moving video about all libraries do for everyone in their communities:

Libraries are for readers, for the young and old, for people who are searching for jobs, for people who are learning new languages, for people who are new to their communities, for people who can’t leave their homes, for people who need some help, for people who want to share their knowledge.

Libraries are for everyone.

Let’s make sure our libraries get the support they deserve.

April 22, 2014: The Chance You Won’t Return in the World

I’ve been saying “April 22, 2014” for a while now. At first in was in the context of, “Oh, my book isn’t coming out for a couple of years, plenty of time to get excited.” Then it was next year, then in about a year, then this year, then this month, then next week, then in a few days.

Now it’s today. My book, The Chance You Won’t Return, is officially in the world today.

It’s a staggering thought that still kind of feels unreal, even though I got to actually see a copy on store shelves over the weekend.

2014-04-19 09.18.36

Please ignore my gross sweatiness.

A lot of people have been asking me if I’m nervous or excited or etc. for publication and honestly, I’m feeling kind of zen about it. Because it’s not really my book anymore. It’s a reader’s book, and I really hope that there’s at least one reader out there who will connect with Alex and her world and struggles and hopes.

I’m so excited to see that today is April 22, and I know that I’ll always look back on today as an amazing day in my life. But it’s not just about seeing my book in print or on shelves or in stores–it’s about passing something I made onto readers who could maybe use this story right now.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped The Chance You Won’t Return on its road to publication, and to any and all future readers it may have.

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!

You Always Know You’re a Writer

At Limebird Writers, Kate has a great post about when you know you’re a writer and if that affects your writerly journey. She makes the point that, for some, it’s not something you decide to do and can really plan a career for. I especially like:

“Sometimes, writers don’t even decide to be writers. Rather, we accidentally fall in love with storybuilding. Forget planning futures and budgets and retirement. We are so rip-roaring drunk on words that we can’t tear ourselves away long enough to think logically, rationally.

For those of us who are writers long before we recognized the symptoms, how could we possibly prepare ourselves in advance? No wonder I didn’t have a mentor. No wonder I didn’t keep my early stories. Should I really be surprised? I didn’t know what I was! I didn’t know I was already on my quest.”

Like Kate, I didn’t know I was a writer just because I liked making up stories. I thought everyone liked making up stories! Of course I filled marble notebooks with characters and the first page or two of stories that were blatant knock-offs of whatever you were reading at the time–that’s what everyone did in their spare time, right? Eventually I realized that writing (or reading) wasn’t something everyone did for fun and found that it was something people got to do as a career. What could be cooler than that?

And even though I studied English literature and creative writing, that doesn’t mean you need to do the same to be a writer. Like Kate says in her post, there aren’t specific guidelines or paths for writers in the same way there are for doctors or lawyers. Being a writer means a million different things to a million different people. But for most of us, part of it means that need to share stories that you’ve always felt.

Make sure to check out the full post.

Memory and Story

On McSweeney’s, a touching piece by John Hodgman, delivered at a literary reading shortly after September 11, 2001. Definitely read the whole piece, but one part that particularly struck me:

“So if art cannot contain or describe this event, and if for now the suffering is too keen to be alleviated by parable… if stories are for the moment not as critically needed, as courage, as medicine, as blood, as bacon, they can at least revert to this social function. As time goes on, this will all pass away into memory, into a story with a beginning and a middle and finally an end. And that transition from the real into fable will bring its own kind of comfort and pain.”

It’s been twelve years since that day, and I like this idea of the transition to stories being needed. It’s hard to comprehend tragedy, especially in the moment, but as we move further and further away from the event itself, stories become more relevant. Memories become story and stay with us and transcend the individual. That means dealing with both the good and the bad, or “comfort and pain,” both of which are needed through the passing years.

Also, School Library Journal suggests resources for 9/11.

Links Galore

A few links for your Tuesday:

Friday Fifteen

Man, did I need Friday. Let’s celebrate with a few fifteen-word (or fewer) book reviews:

1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Now I know what everyone’s been raving about for the last year. Read it now.

2. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Wasn’t a read-aloud in our house; what stands out for me is the color palette.

3. A Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt
I watched a few episodes of The Tudors and recognized characters because of this play.

4. All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John
I should read this aloud to houseplants as a warning.

5. Claudia and the New Girl (The Baby-sitters Club, #12 by Ann M. Martin
I learned about Andrew Wyeth from this book. Well played, Martin.

Coming to a Bookstore/Mailbox Near You

So I’ve been talking about my book for a little while now. The official sales announcement. Copyedits. Proofreading. The title change. But until now, The Chance You Won’t Return has been seen by only a few people. That’s about to change, now that it’s available for pre-order!

That’s right–now you can find The Chance You Won’t Return at IndieBound, Amazon, Powell’s, and other places you may enjoy buying books! And if online choices overwhelm you, you can also add the book to your Goodreads list and give yourself a few months to decide.

Okay, so the book isn’t technically out until April 22, 2014, but just seeing it at these online book vendors makes me super excited. This is real and maybe someday The Chance You Won’t Return will be read by people I don’t even know. As always, the only true expression of my emotions is in gif form:

Here’s to continuing that wild ride on the road to publication! (Especially if that ride is on a hippogriff.)

Links Galore

Lots of good links for today: