Monthly Archives: August 2013

Takeaway Writing Tips from #BCReadalong THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Posted by August 30th, 2013

perks with frame

Two weeks ago we launched a back-to-school themed readalong for Book Country writers. The book we chose was the Young Adult Contemporary novel THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky. Our inaugural #BCReadalong was designed to read the book as writers, using PERKS as an example of prose, structure, and character development that has really resonated with readers of all ages.

Here at Book Country HQ we’ve come up with a list of writing tips that developed as we thought about what works about PERKS: Continue reading

Share Button

Author Interview with emily m. danforth

Posted by August 29th, 2013

Winner of the 2012 Montana Book Award

Winner of the 2012 Montana Book Award

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by emily m. danforth is the best type of book: heartbreaking, funny, and lyrical. It engulfs you in the emotional whirlwind of its prose, and by the end you come out chastened, seeing the world with different eyes.

The novel tells the coming-of-age story of 12-year-old Cameron, who, after the death of her parents, is shipped off to a fundamentalist boot camp to “cure” her homosexuality. It’s a Bildungsroman in the best sense, one that culminates in self-discovery and finding the courage to make your own rules.

I read the novel for a book club last year, and emily joined our discussion via Skype—a conversation that I wanted to revisit in the following interview. Continue reading

Share Button

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #4: Parents in YA Fiction

Posted by August 28th, 2013

Have you ever noticed how all of the teens that star in your favorite YA books have really oblivious parents?

There’s Charlie, Bella’s dad in TWILIGHT, who doesn’t pick up on the fact that a vampire is sneaking in through his daughter’s bedroom window every night. (Charlie’s oblivion is actually the subject of a Book Country discussion thread that I find totally hilarious.) SHIVER’s Grace might have survived a wolf attack as a kid, but her parents still leave her up to her own devices almost all of the time, meaning she and her paranormal boyfriend have nightly sleepovers in her room.

This isn’t just true for YA Paranormal: Even in the YA Contemporary novel (and our inaugural #BCReadalong!) THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, the main character (also named Charlie) has parents who are very prominent characters in the story. Yet they tune out a lot of what’s going on in Charlie’s life in terms of drinking, drugs, romance, friends, and drama. This is also true of another one of my favorite YA books of all time, GIRL by Blake Nelson–Andrea’s parents are just totally unaware of all the stuff she is out doing with her friends. It’s not quite as extreme as in TWILIGHT and SHIVER, and certainly, both Charlie and Andrea’s parents are wonderful, realistic, well-drawn characters, but it got me thinking about the role of adult characters in YA books. What should a writer do with them?

Continue reading

Share Button

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #3: Genre-benders very welcome!

Posted by August 27th, 2013

guidepost 3 imageEver heard of a little genre-bending book called TWILIGHT by Stephenie Meyer? TWILIGHT took the publishing industry, and then the movie industry, by storm when the series launched a few years ago. Paranormal themes had indeed been dancing around YA lit for many years, but TWILIGHT was the book that took it to the mainstream, in an unforgettable way. Suddenly, readers from middle schools up through senior centers were declaring themselves “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.” (One mom I know always jokes that she’s “Team Charlie”–you know, Bella’s single dad.)

What we’ve seen since TWILIGHT is that publishers and readers embrace genre-bending Young Adult fiction in a big way. Take the New York Times-bestselling SHIVER trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater: It’s YA Paranormal, but it has many of the the hallmarks of YA Contemporary as well. It definitely takes place in the contemporary world of small town Northern Minnesota. We go to high school with the characters, who wear jeans, backpacks, and rainbow-striped mittens. We ride in cars with them and eat candy and canned soup with them. Their cell phones ring. There’s nothing about this book that isn’t contemporary. It’s actually because SHIVER is so realistic that the haunting paranormal romance also works: once we as readers start to believe in the “real” world that Stiefvater creates in her fiction, we more readily accept the incredible plot twists that ensue (SPOILER ALERT: There are werewolves).

Continue reading

Share Button

Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Wayne Norris

Posted by August 26th, 2013

wayne_norris

Wayne Norris is a writer from Oklahoma who’s fascinated with history’s mysteries, and has recently joined the Book Country workshop. We wanted to welcome him to the fold and chat with him about his young adult book, JESSE, which asks the question, “What if Jesse James didn’t die at the hands of Robert Ford?”

NG: Let’s start from the beginning: How did you become a writer?

WN: It’s a strange, round-about story. I used to be a Correctional Officer, mainly transporting inmates from local jails. I spent a lot of time on the road, so I had plenty of opportunities to think about things. Eventually, a story would pop into my head and, on my off hours, I’d type it on my computer. This became the basis of my first book. Once that was published, I was so proud of myself, I had to start another; hence, JESSE was born.

Continue reading

Share Button

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #2: Love Stories

Posted by August 23rd, 2013

YA Contemporary Guidepost #2 Love Stories

As the second in a series of Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary fiction, we’re thinking about that old YA standby: the teen romance. Should your book have one or not?

Put a Little Love in Your Book

It’s extremely hard to think of a YA book in any literary category that doesn’t have some element of romance. Romance might not be the central theme, but it’s a good anchor in almost any story. For example, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS by Ann Brashares is about the friendship (and those magical pants). But of the four main characters in the book, three of them have a love interest. One of the most effective ways Ann Brashares illustrates the depth of the sisterhood is by showing us how the characters soothe each other’s romantic anxieties and heartbreaks, as well as celebrate when the others find love. Even books that are relatively “Gender”-less usually explore the theme of love: Stephen Chbosky’s THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (which is, by the way, our inaugural #BCReadalong), EVERY DAY by David Levithan, and PARANOID PARK by Blake Nelson are all welcome books that shows us the complexities of teen life—and love—from a guy’s perspective.

Continue reading

Share Button

Interview with Nora Price, author of ZOE LETTING GO

Posted by August 22nd, 2013

On a recent Friday afternoon, I came across a paperback copy of a Young Adult Contemporary novel by Nora Price called ZOE LETTING GO. Zoe, the main character, has been taken by her mother to a mysterious hospital called Twin Birch, where the only other patients are girls who are frighteningly thin. Zoe isn’t like them, so why did her mother bring her there? Terrified and confused, Zoe writes letter after letter to her best friend from home, Elise. But Elise won’t write back.

Within just a few pages of ZOE LETTING GO, I was absolutely hooked. I spent that entire Friday night on my couch, reading until I got to the end of Zoe and Elise’s story. Price really goes deep into their friendship, revealing bone-chilling insights about these characters and their world.

As writers, there’s a lot we can learn from the way ZOE LETTING GO engages with sensitive issues like eating disorders and self harm. I reached out to ZOE’s author, Nora Price, to find out more about how she avoided cliches in her work, as well as how she handled the intense struggles affecting her characters. Here’s what she had to say:

LS: In the back of my copy of ZOE LETTING GO, it says that “Nora Price is a pseudonym for a New York-based writer and journalist in her late twenties.” Can you share with us why you chose to write this book anonymously?

NP: Yes, absolutely. The answer is that I’m very shy! I get tremendously anxious speaking in public or having my picture taken, which are both things that many authors do (and do well!). When making the decision, I did spend a lot of time hemming and hawing; worrying that to publish under a pen name was irredeemably cowardly. I still think it is a little bit cowardly but I’m not sure I would have published the book otherwise, to be completely honest.

ZOE LETTING GO cover

The paperback for Nora Price’s ZOE LETTING GO came out this month from Razorbill/Penguin Young Readers Group.

Continue reading

Share Button

Guideposts for Writing Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Posted by August 21st, 2013

One of the biggest additions to the Book Country Genre Map is Young Adult Fiction, on the east side of the map. If writing Young Adult Fiction interests you, by all means, explore it!

Young Adult is a genre rich with innovation, and by reading and reflecting on recently published Young Adult titles, we can learn a lot about good writing of any genre.

Over the next two weeks, I’m going to be sharing some approaches to writing Young Adult Fiction, especially Young Adult Contemporary. To go along with the Genre Map metaphor, I’m calling these suggestions “guideposts.” They aren’t rules. Instead, I’m imagining myself coming upon various crossroads in my Young Adult writing, and needing to make choices about the path I want to take through this area of the Genre Map. The guideposts are there to—you guessed it—guide those choices, with the ultimate goal of writing my best Young Adult Contemporary book.

Here’s the first:

How contemporary is contemporary in YA fiction?

Young Adult Contemporary Guidepost #1: How contemporary is contemporary?

Continue reading

Share Button

Connecting with Members on Book Country

Posted by August 20th, 2013

Connecting imageOne of the aspects of Book Country that we’re most excited about is the expansion on what it means to connect with one another on the site.

Before, you could “Follow” as well as “Connect” with other members on the site. When following a member, you would receive updates on their site activities, such as uploading a new book or responding to a discussion, but you wouldn’t be able to see those members’ connections or the books that they were following, or even read their full manuscripts. Most importantly, the person you were following wouldn’t know that you were interested in building a connection with them. We wanted to change that so members could seek more meaningful relationships with each other.

Continue reading

Share Button

Member Spotlight: Meet YA Writer Rachel Marks

Posted by August 19th, 2013

RACHEL_MARKSRachel Marks is an award-winning writer and professional artist who has been on Book Country since 2012. Her dystopian YA book about a teen assassin, GOLDEN, is currently features as an editor’s pick. It also won the winner of the CODEX novel contest. Rachel is the illustrator of the upcoming How to Draw Grimm’s Dark Tales, Fables & Folklore artist guide. On top of all that, Rachel has been voted “Most Likely to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse!”.

Nevena: We really loved GOLDEN. Tell us more about the book and how you came up with the idea for it—the concept is so fascinating.

Rachel: GOLDEN has had a very long road. I started writing it during a time when I wasn’t feeling at all well physically. When I was half way through the first version of the manuscript, I was diagnosed with cancer: Large B-Cell Lymphoma. And after a whole lot of poking and scanning, and a year of chemo, I was released with a bill of health they titled “remission.” And there was GOLDEN, just sitting there. Waiting. But when I went back to it, the book didn’t feel right—Aryana, my heroine, wasn’t the same anymore, in my mind. I wasn’t the same anymore.

Continue reading

Share Button