Quote of the Day

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”William Faulkner

A little inspiration for anyone writing today, especially those of you participating in NaNoWriMo. Forget what anyone else is doing or has done–focus on what you’re doing right now.

(Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Van Vechten Collection, reproduction number LOT 12735, no. 368.)

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

I was so glad to get No Place to Fall in the mail. Obviously I’m a big fan of contemporary realistic YA, and I have a special place in my heart for books about a) small town life, and b) the South. No Place to Fall had that perfect small town, Southern atmosphere that I was hoping for, and so much more. Here are a few of my reasons why you should read No Place to Fall:

1. Amber
The entire time I was reading No Place to Fall, I kept picturing Tyra Collete from Friday Night Lights. If you’re an FNL fan, you already know this means lots of feels. For those who haven’t yet experience FNL (seriously, go to Netflix now), that basically means Amber is a complicated character filled with lots of heart and lots of doubt and lots of strength and lots of sass and lots of pain and lots of awesomeness.

2. Mama and Daddy
A part of No Place to Fall that I didn’t expect based on the general blurb but ended up loving–Amber’s parents and their relationship. They’re facing their own relationship trouble and come across as very real characters. Even though it would be easy to put the blame on one party or another, they come across as real people with real problems, and I love how Amber loves both of her parents, sometimes in spite of herself. Also really want a warm hug from Mama.

3. Whitney and Sammy
Amber’s sister, Whitney, and Whitney’s boyfriend, Sammy, provide another unexpected dose of real life. Sammy’s involved in drugs, which means Whitney is, too, and trouble for Amber’s family. But even Sammy isn’t a mustache-twirling villain. He and Whitney are people who have made some bad choices, but are very real people caught in a cycle of drugs and crime in a small town.

4. Music
Music is a big part of No Place to Fall. I loved getting a sense of Amber finds escape through song, from folk tunes to country to classical to church hymns.

5. Church
Religion is a big part of lots of teens’ lives, but I don’t encounter a lot of it in YA novels. I liked seeing church and religion as a presence in Amber’s life, which felt like another real touch in a small, rural town. It was also nice to see church not as a particular plot point (aside from Amber’s musical connections there), but as part of her life.

6. Romance (and more)
A classic recipe for romance: one guy + one girl + music = romance. No Place to Fall has lots of that, plus some real-life heat for Amber. I like that she lets herself be physical, and that the book never shames her for it, even when she makes some less than wise choices. Again, another detail that made her feel like a real teen.

7. Small towns
No Place to Fall feels like the kind of book that needs to be set in a small town. Amber is very aware of what people think of her, of her family, and how deeply she’s tied to the place she lives–both in bad and good ways. One thing that made No Place to Fall stand apart was that aspect of bad and good. Small town life isn’t just something to run away from here. Amber may have bigger things in front of her, but she can’t deny her home.

8. Friends
Amber’s world is also populated by a circle of friends, including best friend Devon, who’s dealing with being a gay teen in a small town, and the other two Ambers in her high school, one of whom is a popular, pretty cheerleader and actually nice! (So glad not to see mean girl cheerleader stereotypes.) It feels like Amber has a wide circle of people she cares about, which felt like a real teen’s friendships. Not everyone has just one best friend!

9. Southern living
No Place to Fall also feels very routed in the South. Amber lives along the Appalachian Trail, where she meets hikers and feels music in the mountains. She’s a character who’s very much a part of where she lives and, although part of that is about small town life (as mentioned above), I don’t think Amber would be the same girl living in a small town in Vermont or Minnesota.

10. Jaye Robin Brown
Jaye is a fellow OneFour Kidlit author and all-around delightful person. In addition to writing YA novels with a lot of feels, she’s also an art teacher, which means that if you follow her on Twitter or Instagram, you get lots of pictures of cool artwork.

No Place to Fall is available on December 9th, so put it on your pre-order list now!

Links Galore

A few good links:

You’re the Only Ten I See: a YA/MG Tennessee Retreat Recap

Despite my blog silence over the last couple of weeks, I’ve returned from the 2013/14/15 writer retreat in Tennessee. I got to see some awesome writers I’d previously met, give major hugs to writers I’d only met online, and befriend new writers I didn’t know as well. A few highlights:

We stayed at a lodge in the Smoky Mountains, and the view from the porch was amazing!

I got to room with some pretty awesome people (and yes, we did watch “Hush” from Buffy while packing up on the last night):

We didn’t exactly go hungry, thanks to lots of great cooks and bakers:

There may or may not have been a dance party.

Two words: swag table:

Getting to hang out with YA/MG writers I love and admire.

And, of course, getting lots of writing done.

Special thanks to the amazing Natalie Parker for putting this all together! What an awesome time to share thoughts and have fun with some fantastic writers.

Links Galore

Lots of links for your perusal:

Listening to Your Characters, Shaved Heads, and Hamster Divination: the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

Saturday was the Boston Teen Author Festival and it was a huge success! I’m so glad I got to be part of this event. The BTAF staff did such a wonderful job bringing everything together, running thoughtful and fun panels, and sharing enthusiasm about YA. Also major thanks to the Cambridge Public Library staff and the team from Porter Square Books for their hard work at the event and bringing books to so many readers. A few highlights from the day:

  • Getting to hear my fellow authors’ most useless talents, including reciting all the states in alphabetical order, making some seriously weird faces, and telling the future via hamsters.
  • Hearing about how MT Anderson worked in the image of a shaved male head into his novel at the last minute.
  • Learning about how authors use their current concerns about technology and the future to create chilling and emotionally grounded sci-fi worlds.
  • Being on a panel with amazing authors Francisco X. Stork, Emily Franklin, Stewart Lewis,  Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Erin Dionne.
  • Talking with aforementioned amazing authors about how essential it is to create a complete web of relationships for your main character, not just romantic ones.
  • Emily Franklin saying that she knows she’s really getting into a story when she starts telling people, “So it turns out…” Love that phrase for the moment of discovery!
  • Signing books for awesome readers (seriously never gets old).
  • My mom befriending half the authors and attendees.
  • A mug full of chocolate minis from the BTAF staff, aka everything I love in one place.
  • Getting to see and talk to so many wonderful teen readers. You guys warm my heart!
Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Thank you again to everyone who made this event possible, and to everyone who came out and spent the day with us at the Cambridge Public Library.

Is it time for the 2015 Boston Teen Author Festival yet?

Friends, Enemies, Adventures, and More: the Boston Teen Author Festival Is Tomorrow!

The 3rd annual Boston Teen Author Festival is tomorrow! Make sure to come by the Cambridge Public Library tomorrow for lots of writing/reading/YA goodness. I’ll be there along with over twenty other YA authors, talking about writing for teens and lots of different craft points. The general schedule:

Writing Workshop: 9:45-10:30
Doors Open: 10:45
Introduction: 11:15 
Meet the Authors!: 11:30-12:15
Panel Session One: 12:30 -1:15
Lunch Break: 1:15-2:00 (Lunch isn’t provided but you’re in Cambridge which means lots of tasty lunch spots around)
Panel Session Two: 2:00-2:45
Signing: 3:00-4:00

What better way to spend your Saturday than getting to share in a day of YA awesomeness? Hope to see you there!