Links Galore

Lots of cool links for today:

Links Galore

Lots of fun links for today:

The Friday Fifteen Returns!

Hi everyone! Regular readers may remember my blog feature, the Friday Fifteen, in which I’d post five to fifteen book reviews in fifteen words or fewer. It was a lot of fun to put together these microreviews of books I’d been reading and books I’d read years ago, but eventually it got kind of draining. I took off some time to reassess and now I’m back with a new Friday Fifteen format.

The new Friday Fifteen format:

  1. A book review in fifteen words or fewer (just like the good one days), likely something I’ve been reading.
  2. Fifteen words or fewer from whatever I’ve been working on.

So now, onto the first incarnation of the Friday Fifteen v. 2.0. (Or version 3.0?):

Reading:  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
First book written for adults in while that’s touched me. Lived up to the recommendations.

Writing: When I blinked again, she said, “Seriously, how do we ever have a conversation?”
Digging these characters’ banter in my current WIP.

Feel free to share your own microreviews or WIP snippets in the comments. Happy Friday!

Links Galore

Links to start the week:

A Primer for a YA Author in Her Debut Year

This time last year, I was gearing up for my year as a debut author. The Chance You Won’t Return came out in April, and 2014 has been the most amazing, scary, exciting, stressful, awesome year ever. For all the debut authors gearing up for their debut years in 2015 and beyond, I’ve put together a list of things that will probably happen around their book launch:

You will hold your ARC for the first time and realize that your book is actually going to be out in the world.

You will think, “This book is so great. Surely it will win all the awards.”

You will think, “This is the worst book ever and no one should ever see it.”

You will make bookmarks/postcards/bracelets/magnets/buttons and wonder if you really need bookmarks/postcards/bracelets/magnets/buttons.

You will connect with other debut authors and bond over the stress and awesomeness of writing and marketing and life.

You will sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Youtube, etc. You will maybe only use one or two of those platforms regularly.

You will get a great review that shows your book really connected with a reader.

You will get an awful review by someone who didn’t get the book at all.

You will get an awful review that makes thoughtful criticisms. You’ll think, “Yeah, that’s fair.”

You will look at your Goodreads/Amazon/etc. reviews way more often than you tell people you do.

You will go into a bookstore and see your book on the shelves with all of your friends’ books. You will not believe your book is actually on a shelf for readers you don’t even know to find.

You will go into a bookstore and your book and your friends’ books will not be there.

You will do readings and panels and lots of people will come to see you.

You will do readings and panels and only one or two people will come to see you, and those one or two people will be people you already know.

You will read your fellow debut authors’ books and think “Oh my gosh, maybe someone I know is going to win the Printz/Morris/Newbery/etc.” You will be so proud of your friends for their talent and hard work.

You will read bad reviews for your fellow debut authors’ books and think “Are you kidding me, that was the best book ever!” and get even more incensed than when you read bad reviews for your own book.

You will sign your book for the first time.

Your friends will share pictures of your book at bookstores, in libraries, on their bookshelves.

People will ask, “When are you going on your book tour?”

People will ask, “So, how’s the book selling?” You will resist the urge to ask about their salary.

You will worry about how your book is selling.

You will worry about being on lists or being named for awards or getting starred reviews. You will see friends get named to lists or awards or starred reviews and wonder if there’s something you’re doing wrong. (There’s not.)

You will Google yourself. A lot.

You will see that people you’ve never met before are reading your book.

You will introduce yourself as a writer, and when people ask what you’ve written, you can finally tell them the title and say it’s now available at their favorite bookseller’s.

You will stress out about your follow-up book and wonder if you should give up writing for something less stressful, like juggling flaming swords.

You will write your follow-up book (and the one after that and the one after that) because no matter what happens, this is way better than any other job.

You will meet some of the greatest people in the world and wonder how you ever lived without them.

Sometimes you will have to remind yourself that, no matter what, you have a book in the world. You made it. And no matter how the rest of your career goes, no one can ever take that away from you.

But really, you will know that this is only the beginning.

Happy 2015 and beyond, writers!

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…Beware the Wild by Natalie C. Parker

I was first introduced to Natalie Parker’s Beware the Wild at the Fourteenery retreat in 2013. It was so good, we made her read the first and second chapters. So I’d been looking forward to this one for a while, and it was so awesome. Here are a few of my reasons why you should read Beware the Wild.

1. Sterling
Beware the Wild reminded me of a classic Grimms’ fairy tale in that it was about one girl on a quest, fighting the forces of darkness to save her brother. Like any good fairy tale heroine, Sterling is brave and determined and clever. But Sterling is also a normal girl in so many ways–she’s sensitive and scared and funny and doubts herself. She’s a phenomenal protagonist and I loved getting to join her on this adventure.

2. The Swamp
Sterling lives at the edge of the swamp, which is the center of all sorts of creepy local legends and magical activity. At the beginning of the novel, Phin has disappeared into the swamp, which has already claimed the lives of other Sticks residents throughout history. I loved the swamp as a magical and scary setting, and getting to hear snippets of other swamp folklore.

3. Lenora May
One of the swamp’s creepy elements–Lenora May, who appears after Phin has disappeared and takes over his life for everyone except Sterling. Lenora May is a wonderfully complex villain/sister, and I spent the whole book wondering if I should be afraid of her or trust her.

4. Phin
Even though Phin has disappeared into the swamp at the beginning of the novel, we get a sense of him as a brother through Sterling’s memories. I loved getting a sense of his strength and loyalty and fear, and learning about why he felt he had to escape.

5. Family
Obviously in a book about a sister trying to rescue her brother, family is a big deal. But even outside of Sterling and Phin’s relationship, family is a big part of Beware the Wild. I won’t spoil anything here, but I loved Natalie’s exploration of families’ particular traumas and secrets and griefs and how they can rebuild.

6. Southern Gothic
Beware the Wild feels like a book that could only be set in the American South. Between the swamp magic and lore and towns filled with secrets and wild characters, it’s a novel that fits right into the Southern Gothic tradition.

7. Heath
Sterling and Heath have one of my favorite romances in 2014 YA debuts. They find each other through their losses and support each other in the belief that their loved ones exist. Their relationship feels so grounded in not just attraction, but also mutual respect and support.

8. Sticks
At the end of Beware the Wild the book, I really wanted a Beware the Wild movie and spin-off TV series. The world Natalie’s created, from the swamp to the high school to Sterling’s family to the Clary store, the town of Sticks feels so real and expansive and I want to dive into it even more. Home becomes a big theme in the book, and I think part of that is because the sense of place is so alive in this book, even beyond the swamp.

9. Shine
The Shine is the magic of the swamp that can give power and/or destroy people. It feels timeless, almost a force of nature, in that way that I love magic in books to feel. It’s a force that needs to be respected and can’t exactly be understood, and lends a mystical and unsettling air to the book.

10. Natalie is the best
Most of my emails to Natalie over the last year or two have included the phrase “You’re the best!” Because Natalie C. Parker is truly the best. She puts together the most amazing retreats and organizes projects like the Hanging Garden. She’s thoughtful and kind and an enthusiastic supporter of her fellow writers. She’s definitely the kind of writer and person you want to know.

Beware the Wild is now available, so make sure to get your copy today!

Serial, Crimes, and Teenage Life

Like most of the podcast-listening world, I’ve been obsessed with Serial for the past couple of months. The case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee is tragic and upsetting and confusing, and a real look into the unfairness of the criminal justice system. For me, it was never about finding out if Adnan really committed murder or not–it was about taking a hard look at one, particular case and the very real people involved.

One of the first things that struck me–this was a case about teenagers. As a YA writer, this raised the stakes for me. Hae was killed when she was in high school, and even though Adnan, Jay, and others involved in the case are now older, they were still teens when the events surrounding Hae’s death occurred.

So often when Serial would go into interviews or stories about Adnan and Hae and others, I would think “These are teenagers.” Teens can walk the line between being good, respectful kids in their religious homes and still have a secret boyfriend or girlfriend and smoke up with their friends. They hear all sorts of rumors and invest very deeply in their relationships and friendships and their social circles are very complicated. They can be friends with people and still find them sketchy. They make mistakes and don’t always think through their decisions. These years are already fraught with drama. Add in something like murder, and the intensity skyrockets.

I don’t pretend to know if Adnan is innocent or guilty, or what calls were made when, or who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. But I do know that a tragedy occurred for all of these people when they were teenagers, something that permanently changed the course of their lives.

I don’t know what percentage of Serial’s listeners are teens, but I feel like teens would be particularly interested in cases like Adnan’s. This, of course, got me thinking about YA novels I’d recommend for Serial fans. Some wonderful librarians shared the following links to lists of book recs for Serial fans:

Part of Serial that interested me in particular was teenage Adnan’s relationship to his conservative Muslim family, the social structure of his Islamic community in the Maryland area, and potential implicit/explicit racism in the case. These books aren’t necessarily related to crime or mystery, but I’d recommend these YA book lists featuring Muslim teens:

A few other YA books that I’d also recommend for Serial fans:

  • Fault Line by Christa Desir
  • Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Even though only a couple of these (Monster and Pointe) deal explicitly with the criminal justice system, they all involve a terrible crime, the uncertainties surrounding that crime, and the complexities of both victims and perpetrators. All of these authors do a fantastic job creating very realistic situations of crime and mystery and tragedy and injustice and strength and hope, all surrounding the teen experience. These aren’t easy books to read, but they’re necessary reading.

Any other YA books you’d recommend to fans of Serial?