This One’s for the Girls

Parks and Recreation gave us so many great TV moments, and Galentine’s Day (aka February 13, when we celebrate the great women in our lives) is one of the best.

Although I can’t be brunching with my favorite ladies today, it’s a great excuse to share some of my favorite female non-romantic bookish relationships. My criteria: all members of the relationship have to be well-developed characters with their own stories and motivations (ie, no friends who basically be taken out of the story without it affecting the plot to much). In no particular order:

code-name-verityMaddie and Julie from Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The most powerful story of friendship and sacrifice in YA. Or literature. COME AT ME.

The Penderwicks sisters from The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Penderwicks girls are smart and thoughtful and supportive. Part of why I love this series is just getting to spend time with all of them.

Hermione and Polly from Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Even in the truly worst of experiences, Hermione and Polly’s supportive friendship shines through. I don’t have the upper body strength to be part of their cheerleading team, but I would totally hang out with them after practice.

Nikki and Maya from This Side of Home by Renée Watson
Genuine and thoughtful look at two twin sisters who are growing up and growing apart, but always have each other’s backs.

Mary, Scarlett, Tansey, and Emer from A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle
Touching story about a girl, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother as they deal with life and death.

Elizabeth and Christina from Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty
This was one of my favorites as a teen reader. I love how Elizabeth and Christina get to be friends through their schools’ pen pal program. Great story showing how friendships can evolve over time.

Other suggestions for great Galentine’s Day reads? Share them in the comments!

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everybody! We’re digging out of a snowstorm here in the Boston area, which means all I want to do this weekend is curl up with a lot of books and baked goods. (Gotta get a run in there, too.) In the meantime, let’s kick things off with a couple of book reviews in fifteen words or fewer.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
A beautiful story about family and kindness and the power of stories.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Epic and engaging look at the history of cancer. Literally cried at some parts.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson
Whether it’s poetry or books for adults or YA, Woodson more than delivers.

Links Galore

The links I’ve been saving for a snowy day:

Registration Opens Saturday for NESCBWI 17!

I’ve talked before about the annual NESCBWI conference. It’s where I connected with my crit group; where I see lots of writer friends; where I’ve heard inspiring keynotes; where I’ve taken awesome workshops; and where I go every year in April.

This year, I’m especially excited, because I’m teaching two workshops! They are:

J1 – Stories Without Stigma: Writing About Mental Health
Sunday, 10:50 am – 11:45 am
This workshop will focus on crafting nuanced, realistic characters who are struggling with mental health. Topics covered will include the importance of talking about mental health in fiction for young readers; questions to ask when researching a particular mental health issue; creating dynamic characters and avoiding stereotypes; mental health issues vs. neurodiversity and intersectionality in mental health; avoiding romanticizing mental health struggles and providing hope for readers. We will look at examples from work such as Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory (PTSD), Other Broken Things by Christa Desir (addiction), OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu (OCD), Pointe by Brandy Colbert (eating disorder), and Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (depression).

M8 – Write Like a Runner: Training Your Writing for the Long Haul
Sunday 3:05 pm – 4:00 pm

Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole.”—Haruki Murakami. Writing a novel and running a marathon require a lot of time, focus, dedication, and can also feel like pretty intimidating. But with a little planning and a lot of motivation, you can approach the novel writing process with the focus and heart of a marathoner. Learn how to craft a schedule, deal with setbacks, and focus on short-term goals to get yourself to the finish line.

Registration opens this Saturday (February 4) at 2pm. NESCBWI fills up fast, so make sure to be at your computer this weekend. And hey, maybe sign up for my workshops while you’re at it! (I promise I won’t make you run.)

Friday Fifteen

Today feels like a good day to share a couple lines of poetry, in slightly more than fifteen words. From “Poetry as Insurgent Art [I am signaling you through the flames]” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?

The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.”

Read the whole poem here. Other poems I’ve been reading recently include “A Song on the End of the World” by Czeslaw Milosz and “Good Bones” by Maggie Smith.

Keep writing, keep fighting.

Playing and Discovery

A friend who’s an actor recently shared this interview with Mark Rylance talking about spontaneity and ‘playing’ with other actors as a way to develop character. The part I like starts around 1:40 minutes in:

I don’t do a lot of plotting when I’m drafting a novel, so I can totally relate to to this idea of being in the moment with characters, and the joy of discovery that comes with that. Even though I’m married to a playwright and have a lot of friends in the theater, I never thought about spontaneity and character development in the same way in terms of acting. But it’s really cool to see that artists can have similar methods of exploration, despite working in different artistic spheres.

Do you feel a sense of play and exploration in your writing or other artistic work?