Tag Archives: young adult

“There is always a reason to not give up.” Interview with Aisha Saeed, Author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS

Posted by April 22nd, 2015

Interview with Aisha Saeed, Author of WRITTEN IN THE STARSAisha Saeed is the author of WRITTEN IN THE STARS, which is published by Nancy Paulsen Books. Aisha is also co-founder and Vice President of Strategy of We Need Diverse Books. In WRITTEN IN THE STARS, Naila, a smart Pakistani-American high school senior, is forced into an arranged marriage by her own parents. I was stunned by the trials Naila had to face. In our interview, Aisha shares what the hardest chapter was for her to write, the specific technique she used to query agents, and what has surprised her most since joining the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. 

***

Janet Umenta: Did you draw from any real-life conversations while writing WRITTEN IN THE STARS?

Aisha Saeed: I definitely drew from real-life experiences while writing WRITTEN IN THE STARS. Growing up, I had childhood friends who were coerced and pressured into marriages they would not have chosen for themselves. While my novel is entirely fictional, those stories always stayed with me and served as the inspiration for my novel. Continue reading

Share Button

Member Spotlight: Meet NaNoWriMo Writer Caitlin Garzi

Posted by December 9th, 2013

Caitlin GarziPlease welcome writer Caitlin Garzi to the Member Spotlight this morning! Caitlin is a new member to the site, and found out about our Book Country community via her involvement in NaNoWriMo. Her NaNoWriMo project-a WIP called CORIANNE CASTLE–is available to read and review on Book Country.

LS: You participated in NaNoWriMo this year. Tell us everything about your experience–your project, how it felt to “do the Nano,” and what you learned about yourself as a writer.

CG: Last year, one of my fellow Kansas State English graduates participated in NaNoWriMo and I had the opportunity to read the novel that resulted from her effort. She was so excited every day about writing and managed to complete a herculean 50,000 words in November. She inspired me to try out Nano and see what I could do.

I had a whole list of potential YA novel ideas and so I selected my favorite, a novel about Corianne Castle, a 16 year old worker at Waverly Theme Park in the dilapidated town of South Keyes, Florida. Cori was abandoned by her father and is being raised by a mother who suffers from a slight shopping problem– she’s purchased practically every Mary Sue collectable item, from the Mary Sue Limited Edition New Year’s Baby right down to the Mary Sue official Movie Popcorn maker. When Corianne gets sucked into the universe of the occult, she sets off on a mission to rescue her mother’s sanity and end non-magical human torture, even if it means tearing down the thin barrier that separates wizards from the rest of the world.

I was excited about this idea because it allowed me to explore the social implications of many of the “wizard” books out there– from the real life “authentic collector” items that have proliferated to the hypothetical treatment of non-magical peoples of magical worlds. I knew anything I wrote would be “issue driven” young adult, and this idea fit the bill.

The first twenty pages were so easy to write! I breezed through the theme park descriptions, altercations Cori has with customers, and issues she has serving food to her snobby and unlikable classmates. I never knew I could write so much so quickly! Once Cori was ready to enter the world of magic, though, I hit some snags and needed to do some brainstorming. I’m sad to say I only made it 30,000 words into the Nano challenge, but it was still so rewarding and exciting!

Continue reading

Share Button

Keep kids creatively occupied with Book Country coloring sheets while you are writing this holiday season!

Posted by November 22nd, 2013

Book Country Coloring Sheets Image

The holiday season is almost upon us!

If you are anything like me, your writing schedule gets totally thrown during the holiday season. Between cooking, shopping for and wrapping presents, entertaining houseguests, and going to parties, my word count stalls at the end of the year. I know that for writers who are also parents, this time of year is even trickier because kids are out of school and in need of entertainment and care.

That’s what gave me the idea of Book Country coloring sheets. If you’re hanging out with kids this holiday season, grab some crayons, markers, or colored pencils, and download and print Book Country genre flags for them to color in while you write. They’ll learn a little about literary genres, and you’ll be able to steal a few minutes to work on your WIP.

Here we offer six kid-friendly Genre Flags, ready to be colored in:

As you can see from our examples above, coloring is not just for kids! We took a breather at lunchtime this week to color in Genre Flags ourselves. We highly recommend coloring as an activity for relaxing and recharging during this busy time of year!

Check out this picture of Nevena coloring–relaxed indeed!

Book Country coordinator Nevena Georgieva colors a Book Country Genre Flag

Share the fruits of your artistic labor with us by tweeting photos to @BookCountry and tagging Instagrams with @BookCountryOfficial. We can’t wait to see how you bring these Genre Flags to life!

Share Button

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

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

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

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

Member Spotlight: Meet Writer Atthys Gage

Posted by May 20th, 2013

Book Country Member Spotlight Q&A

atthys_gage_writer

The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead.  –Atthys Gage

Atthys Gage has been writing novels for the last seven years while living on the North Coast of California amid dogs, kids, redwood trees, and one long-suffering wife. He’s been a member of Book Country for about two years. The current tally is four and a half novels, a memoir about adopting a child from China, and a handful of shorter works.  

Nevena: Thanks for chatting with me, Atthys. When did you start writing? What inspires you to carry on?

Atthys: Seven years ago I decided to try writing a book.  It was an out of the blue “I wonder if I can do it?” kind of challenge. It turned out I could. I wrote it all in long hand in a couple of spiral-bound notebooks before I even touched the word processor. Since then, I’ve had the bug.

Nevena: Is fitting writing into your life a juggling act?

Atthys: My wife works full-time (and then some), so I’ve got a house to run and three teenage kids to mismanage. But I get a few hours to myself nearly every day. Unfortunately, I’m a hopeless procrastinator, so most of that time gets wasted on a lot of nonsense, but I have no one to blame for that but myself. And the Internet.

Nevena: Haha, don’t we all… What’s your writing process like? Do you plot extensively or let the characters lead the way?

Atthys: I need to have a pretty good outline, but I’m always open to change. The light is dim sometimes, and you can only see a little bit of the path ahead. Once in a while, a character you thought was just a walk-on will force her way center stage and start grabbing all the good lines. When that happens, I try to get out of her way.

Nevena: The muse takes over! You’ve posted three fantasy books on Book Country. What is it about the genre’s tropes and conventions that speaks to you as a story-teller?

Atthys: Actually, I’m not all that fond of traditional fantasy. I am attracted to books where extraordinary or unexplained things happen. I like the tension, the way the various layers of reality rub against each other. Everyday life, of course, can be just as weird, just as beautiful, just as fantastic as the wildest otherworldly fantasy. It’s all about the writing. And those impossible, unexplainable elements, I try to write them just the same, always anchoring the magical in pure, vivid realism.

Nevena: What’s your “pet” project at the moment?

Atthys: I guess the book I’m most passionate and hopeful about at the moment is The Flight of the Wren.  It’s the story of a sixteen-year-old girl who is given a flying carpet. Yeah. That’s the nutshell version. My formal pitch is a lot more exciting than that, but ultimately I think I lose a lot of readers with the words ‘flying carpet.’ Probably they are expecting something like a Magic Treehouse adventure and a lot of mucking around with Aladdin and his monkey.

Of course, it’s nothing like that. The protagonist is painfully ordinary—disaffected, disconnected, utterly disinterested in school, family, even friends. She is, in short, a typical teenage mess. She has no special powers, no special insights, not even a belief in herself. Because I am a benevolent (if inscrutable) god, I toss her a lifeline. A gift. An impossible gift: a magic carpet. But there are strings attached. With it comes both a community (other members of her flock) and a purpose, a mission.

Love, of course, also waits in the wind. Love is what drives everything that happens in the second half of the book. A flying carpet, once you get past the absurdity, really is a heck of a gift.  It represents two extremely valuable things for a young person: freedom and independence. For Renny, it also comes to represent two things she thought she didn’t want but which turn out to be a lot more important than flying: connection and responsibility. In other words, people she cares about.

Nevena: Which part of that book was the most challenging to write, and how did you handle it?

Atthys: Not to downplay the agony of creation, but the hardest part has been trying to get the book read and published, though I guess I have myself to blame for that one too.  All of the most cherished and repeated advice from agents and marketing people—make your book high-concept, write to a target audience, know your genre—I’ve failed at all of those things! My books don’t sit comfortably in any particular genre. I can’t even identify an appropriate age group.  I call my stuff YA because it concerns younger people as characters, but I don’t tailor my writing to that audience. Understand, I’m not saying I won’t. I’m saying I can’t. I admire the discipline that would be needed to write well within the constraints of a traditional genre, but I don’t seem to possess it.

Nevena: You’ve reviewed quite a few books on the site. How do you switch gears from writing fiction to reviewing it? Does reviewing change the way you see your own writing?

Atthys: I love reviewing, partly because I love the editing process. The whole process of vetting and re-vetting every combination of words appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature. I’m afraid it makes me a pushy sort of reviewer, but I find rewriting a lot easier than trying to explain in abstract terms why something isn’t working for me. I don’t know if it helps the original writer, but I think going through that process makes me a better writer. Of course there are lots of terrific writers on Book Country who need no help from anyone, and reading good writing is the best learning experience of all.

Nevena: So why are you on Book Country?

Atthys: Colleen and I go way back. We worked at the same brick-and-mortar bookstore back when such things were common. Fast forward twenty years. I’m querying agents for my first book and I see her name. We reconnect. She almost represents my book, then chickens out.

Needless to say, I’ve never quite forgiven her for that, but we stayed connected. When she started posting about this site, I decided to check it out.

Nevena: Haha. Is there anything else you want to share with the Book Country peeps?

Atthys: Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Go outside once in a while. You’re all welcome take my advice because I’m not using it.

Nevena: You’re a funny one. Hope Renny finds a home soon!

Connect with Atthys on Book Country and give Flight of the Wren a read. Follow him on Twitter at @AtthysGage.

Share Button