May 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
Today in the US marks Memorial Day, during which we remember and pay tribute to men and women who died in the armed forces. Amber Lough, one of my favorite 2014 debut authors and a former First Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, has a beautiful post up about what it means to remember and honor those lost in service.
For me, Amber’s post is also a reminder of how important it is to share stories. Some veterans might find it hard to talk about their experiences; some might not be around to share those experiences themselves. But I appreciate when people like Amber can talk a little about what she and others experienced and how it changed them. I’m so glad Amber is sharing stories now, both from her own life (as in her blog post) and from her imagination (as in her awesome novel).
Make sure to check out Amber’s post. Sending love to all feeling loss on Memorial Day.
May 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Updates from NESCBWI coming when my brain isn’t fried, but first, a lovely video about why we should all be bookish kids, no matter how old we are:
I love the idea of everyone processing their own story and realizing the expanse of possibilities through reading. Maybe you’re not going to tesser to other planets and save your dad from a giant brain, but you can still better process your own life and the lives of those around you having learned about Meg Murry’s expansive love and bravery. All kinds of art can show you the possibilities of other stories, but I think there’s something to be said for reading in particular–it’s intimate and personal while still being expansive.
April 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
Last week my dad mentioned William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech. I’d read it before, but it feels particularly meaningful now. My favorite part:
“I decline to accept the end of man. It is easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last dingdong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will still be one more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking.
I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Bold/italics are mine. Writers, we’ve got a job to do. Let’s help humanity prevail.
Make sure to click through to see the whole speech; you can even listen to Faulkner read it!
April 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This week is the national Days of Remembrance, which commemorates Holocaust victims and survivors. I remember learning about the Holocaust in school, primarily with two main books. The first was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, which my class read in third or fourth grade. I knew about WWII in general, but this was the first time I remembered hearing about the significant threat to Jewish people during that time. The book provided a safe way to learn about a very scary part of history; the threat to Ellen’s family is very real but Lowry is careful not to go into too much detail about what could have faced the Rosens if they’d been caught.
Night by Elie Wiesel was another significant book in my learning about the Holocaust. By the time I read it, I was in eighth grade and knew millions of innocent people had been tortured and killed. I didn’t expect Night to affect me so, but I read it in one evening and spent the entire time crying. For me, it was an opportunity to understand the Holocaust in a very personal way. Somehow it’s easy to gloss over statistics about how many people died; it’s far harder to ignore real stories about the horrors that individual people experienced.
Which is why the Days of Remembrance and honoring all the specific victims and survivors are essential. We need to hear their stories and remember that these were/are specific people with specific lives. They were mothers and singers and readers and kids who liked silly jokes and lawyers and on and on. All of their stories are valuable and need to be shared.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has resources for taking part in the Days of Remembrance, including a webcast of the national ceremony on Thursday, April 11 at 11:00am. In case you can’t take part in an organized event, you can also share the stories of victims and listen to the stories of survivors, as documented on the museum website. Make sure their voices are heard.
November 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
October 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Hub is currently going through a great series about the “next big thing” in YA. One post I was especially glad to see was this one about contemporary/realistic fiction. As a writer of contemporary realistic YA, I know it doesn’t always seem as fun and flashy as some of the other genres–no monsters, no time travel, no awesome steampunk outfits. (Unless we’ve got a real-life steampunker on our hands, in which case I want to read that book.) But it’s a solid standby for the genre. As Kelly says:
“It is the bread and butter of YA fiction because it is the essence of what the teenage experience is. It’s happy. It’s dark. It’s tough. It’s romantic. It’s mysterious.”
Which is one part of what I love about contemporary YA. As much as I love to read about other worlds and heroic adventures, it’s also great to connect with characters who are dealing with very real issues and having very real adventures.
Kelly offers many suggestions for contemporary realistic YA reading that covers a breadth of topics like grief, sex, graduation, obesity, and secrets. There are so many topics and options because YA is ever-evolving and expanding. Kelly says it way better than I could:
“Nothing in contemporary YA fiction is sacred. There are no topics too light nor too dark to dig into, nor should there be. Even topics that emerge again and again — things like cancer or depression or first love or friendship — are still new and fresh upon each telling. Teens live a million different experiences, and even when faced with similar challenges, each individual tackles it in his or her own unique manner.
This is why there is and never will be a “next big thing” in contemporary fiction. The only trend and the only prediction that can be made for reality is that teens live it each and every day, and having a robust selection of stories about real experiences is crucial. But it’s not simply about having them that matters — reading them and knowing about them is just as critical.”
I want to put this on a big flag and wave it around. Contemporary YA may not get the buzz that some other genres do, but it’s filled with love and hope and truth and humor, and all of that matters.
Make sure to check out the full post because it’s so good.
September 11, 2012 § 3 Comments
I find it strange to talk about September 11th because, unlike so many people in New York or Washington or Pennsylvania, my life wasn’t dramatically affected that day. Whenever this day comes up, or the anniversary of any other tragic event, I turn to this poem by Adam Zagajewski:
Try to praise the mutilated world.
Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
(Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh.)
It was published in the September 42, 2001 issue of The New Yorker. Click through for more poetry in response to that day.
August 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Kind of in love with artist Lisa Congdon’s work. Her series of quotes is fantastic, too. I especially like this one:
Good advice for pretty much anyone. Work like writing can be hard, especially when there’s a lot of rejection involved. Staying tremendously interested in stories can help you move forward through those hard times in your writing career.
It doesn’t look like this image is up on her Etsy site (yet?) but I’d love to have a print and hang it above my desk. Great writing inspiration!