Archive for the ‘Young Adult Books’ Category

Writing Realistic Dialogue

October 5, 2012

“So, like you know Nick’s mom?” the teen’s pony tail swished behind her as she walked.

“Yeah, like she’s blonde  right?” said the girl in the middle of the three, her short-shorts hiking up oh, so far.

I huffed and puffed behind them on the walking trail and made sure I kept up so I wouldn’t miss a word. 

The girl on the right chimed in with awe in her voice.  “She’s really good-looking.”

“No kidding,” said Ms. Pony Tail.  “She looks exactly like Carrie on Sex in the City. Her body, anyways.” 

All three murmured their agreements. 

Just a tidbit of conversation, but a goldmine for a writer.  Why?  Because if you’re not around teenagers, you don’t know how they sound any more.  Whether they’re in your  young adult novel or in another work of fiction, their dialogue needs to sound real.  Nothing worse than phony characters!

Ever read a book for adults with a child who doesn’t  sound kid-like?  The talking doesn’t match the character, where they live, or time period?   Fake.     Or lines of useless talk without a purpose?   

So what makes dialogue good?

Dialogue should show character and move the story forward.  Talk should be action.  Can you get your characters’ words to heighten conflict?  Sometimes great dialogue has subtext, or a secondary meaning when  words that mean one thing on the surface, but underneath they have a deeper emotional meaning.    And occasionally dialogue is important because of what isn’t being said.   The elephant in the room that no one is talking about.

It reminds me of an incident once years ago when my husband, young son and I traveled to see his parents, brother and sister-in-law.  We talked in the living room for a couple of hours and then took separate cars to meet at a restaurant.  In our car I mentioned to Bob that his mother was upset with his father and my sister-in-law knew, but I hadn’t figured out the reason yet.  And my sister-in-law was irritated about my mother-in-law over an issue too, but we’d learn why at the restaurant.

Bob’s mouth dropped open.  “You are nuts.  We talked about the weather, everyone’s health and what the kids were doing in school.  How did you get all of that out of mindless conversation?”

“You weren’t paying attention!” I said.  “Watch the body language, the eyes, listen to the voices.” 

My husband shook his head in disgust.  “You are wrong, Liz.  Totally wrong.”

Of course, we discovered the source of my mother-in-law’s irritation with her husband, and my sister-in-law’s problem with my mother-in-law.  Later, he grew to appreciate my “women’s intuition.”  But I don’t think it’s limited to women.  All writers have this when they are working. 

And when aren’t we? 

Writing Tips: 

1. Don’t use substitute words for “said.”  I just unearthed a beginning writing piece of mine from a trillion years ago and I’m embarrassed to say each time someone talked I used gasped, murmured, whispered, indicated, questioned, etc. so often it was embarrassing.  Occasionally it’s appropriate but generally, use SAID.  it will make your writing flow more smoothly.  

Or, skip the tags and employ an action.   (See above.  Bob’s mouth dropped open.  The teen’s pony tail swished behind her as she walked.)

2.  Don’t use dialogue to tell information a character would already know.   Example: 
“Mary, you are my very best friend.  I’ve known you all my life and your mother is our horse’s vet.  She saved his life two times.”  

Writing Prompts

1.  Listen to real dialogue wherever you go.  Keep a journal.  Jot it down after you hear it so you won’t forget.  (But try not to write it down as you walk, or you’ll be caught like Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh.)  Choose a piece of real dialogue and create a story with it.

2.  Write a story with special buzzwords.  These are words that each and every hobby or occupation has.  Does your character love horses?  Research horses.  Interview a horse lover.  Read horse books.  How does a horse lover talk about them?  What are the “horse words” that would go with this character?  

My husband was an engineer and he wrote a recommendation for one of his secretaries and said she had good “phone presence.” This time I thought HE was nuts.  But sure enough, in that industry, it was exactly what they called good phone etiquette.

3.  Write a story about you with real dialogue.   Read your dialogue out loud.  (In fact, read ALL dialogue you EVER write out loud!) 

4. Check a recent project of yours.  Do you have long narration that needs to be broken up with dialogue?  Make sure your piece is balanced.  Dialogue helps provide a balance and is good for pacing.  Need faster pacing?  Write short dialogue and skip tags.   But don’t have huge blocks of dialogue, either.  Make sure you have a balanced story that flows well.  Read it aloud to make sure it feels just right.

Publisher’s Weekly Article: The Children’s Industry

August 10, 2012

If you weren’t able to make the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Summer Conference, read this article to get some of the highlights:

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/53496-scbwi-summer-conference-a-gathering-of-kindred-spirits-.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly%27s+Children%27s+Bookshelf&utm_campaign=a27b52a677-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email

Writing Advice from the Best: Authors and Editors

March 7, 2012

I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Gate Conference at Pacific Grove’s Asilomar this past weekend where I soaked up the sun, strolled on the beach, and became infused with creativity when speakers and attendees focused on their inner genius, the theme of the weekend. 

Although I can’t possibly portray the inspiration I acquired, I can share a few tips of some of the fabulous faculty. 

Young adult author Charlie Price (Desert Angel, Dead Connection) didn’t start writing seriously until he was 58.  He says, “Relax.  Release.  Let go.” 

The creativity panel told us to watch the movies of the genre we’re researching and writing to help vitalize our visual senses.

Author illustrator Dan Yaccarino (Go, Go, America, Lawn to Lawn) advises us to do what he did:  say yes, ask a lot of questions, and listen. 

Editor/author Arthur Levine, (Monday is One Day, All the Lights in the Night) most recognized for co-editing the Harry Potter series, reassured us that children’s books do not have a bleak future and this period is merely a transitional phase. 

He also asks the question, “Really?”  “Did that character really look like that?  She really say that?  Really feel that way?”   Don’t stop questioning yourself if it feels automatic.

What type of book is he looking for?  Visit his website and discover what is on his bookshelf already.  That’s how you buy a gift for someone, by checking out their bookshelves, isn’t it?  This is a very valuable suggestion as to what any editor desires.  

Philomel editor Tamara Tuller, who is most interested in modern, literary middle grade and young adult fiction and story-based picture books, recommends “Write like you’re drunk and edit like you’re sober.” 

Write with abandon!  Get to it!

High Concept Books with Veronica Rossi

October 13, 2011

On Saturday at the California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch, we were treated to a highly entertaining talk by young adult novelist Veronica Rossi, whose book, Under the Never Sky, will be released in January by HarperCollins. Her three-book-deal, which has also been optioned for a movie, is a can’t-wait-for-event!

Veronica filled us in on high concept:  it’s actually a Hollywood term which is an idea that sells itself.    As quoted from James Bonnet: ” . . . it is an intriguing idea that can be stated in a few words and is easily understood by all.” 

Basically, Veronica says, it’s a promise.  As you watch movies, can you state it in a few words?

“Date Night”    What happens when a bored married couple’s date goes very, very wrong?

“Snakes on a Plane”     The title is enough to describe it.

(Disclaimer:  Just because a movie or book is high concept, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s high quality.)

Writing Prompt: 

Describe your project within 25 words or less.  If your pitch can be short and succinct, you will have a better chance at focusing your writing, whether or not you’ve got a high concept writing idea or not. 

Next, go through your manuscript and make sure you’ve adhered to your pitch. 

How do you write a good pitch?  Veronica says, “Tell us who your hero is, what she is up against, and what is at stake.” 

Remember to add character development, suspense and a terrific voice so that your novel will be a great high concept read.

Veronica Rossi: High Concept YA Fiction Today

September 20, 2011

Do you want to write young adult fiction?  Interested in learning what the market for “high concept” is like in today’s young adult world?  Discover the secrets behind this fascinating genre from the latest local success story.   What exactly makes something high concept fiction and why are agents and editor searching for it?  How can YOU apply this technique to your own writing?

Veronica Rossi, our own California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch member, sold her three-book deal to HarperCollins and looks forward to seeing the movie. Little Brown is publishing the book in the UK and 23 international territories! Not many of us can say that, now can we?

She will tell us how she broke into this highly competitive market with her novel, Under the Never Sky  and share secrets of how we can do it too.

Saturday, Oct. 8th, 2011

Sign-in begins at 11:30 (come then so you can socialize/mingle/network) at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.  At noon we eat a sumptuous buffet lunch (you HAVE to try that cheese pasta!) followed by Veronica’s enlightening talk.  $20 members, $25 nonmembers.  Reservations required by emailing Jean at jeaniepops@comcast.net

Hope to see you there!

www.veronicarossi.com     Veronica Rossi

http://cwcmtdiablowriters.wordpress.com/next-program/   CWC Mt Diablo Branch

American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books 1990-2000

November 2, 2010

When I saw some of the titles on the list of censored books below, I just shook my head in amazement.  Are you kidding me?  I feel sorry for the children and adults who are trying to stop OTHERS from reading these great works of literature.

Now I’m not saying that because a book title is mentioned here it IS a great work of literature.  There are two that pop out at me that would NOT fit in that category in MY opinion.    However, I wouldn’t tell anyone else they couldn’t or shouldn’t read them. 

Some of my favorite books are on this list.  Thank goodness for the English teachers in my past who shared some of them with me.   When my son was in first and second grade he read every book by Roald Dahl.   These books are what turned him on to reading.  

I’m guessing How to Read Fried Worms is on there because some terrified Mommy thinks her kid will try to eat one.  (Sigh)  And if someone refuses to have Mark Twain on the book shelf . . . it’s sad.  Dialogue.  Dialogue.  Dialogue about what was acceptable back those days and what is acceptable now.  We can learn about our past and our future by discussion and comparison.

There are tons of non-reading kids who would never have opened a book willingly if it had not been for the Goosebump series.  Not to even mention Harry PotterJK turned on adults to reading too because of her series!

The Stupids?  If you haven’t read The Stupids, no matter what age you are, go out immediately to your independent bookstore and buy this series!  Or go to the library and check them out.  They are hysterical!

I happen to know that author Chris Crutcher has saved many lives by his books.  Kids NEED his books.  When you are drowning with problems you have to read about kids like you.  Don’t parents get it?  You don’t want to feel like you are alone.  Crutcher is a school therapist and teacher and he is threatened with all sorts of ridiculousness just because adults are afraid of what they don’t understand.  Fear will do all sorts of weird things to you.  Like make you be afraid of what your kids will read.

There is a lot of hate in the world because of fear.  People fear and hate what they do not know.  So of course we need books about subjects that are different from the norm.  Just because you accept people who live other lifestyles doesn’t mean your child will change overnight and decide to live in another lifestyle. 

Just this very weekend a good friend told me I had to Read Pillars of the Earth.   This bit of serendipity that means I have to go get it now

And if you are afraid, remember that you get to have a dialogue with your child as he or she reads.  This is the most fun and interesting part of reading! 

I used to tease my son about this.  “Tofer, this is why I had a kid.  So we could read and talk books!” 

100 Most Frequently Challenged Books: 1990–2000

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz

Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling

Forever by Judy Blume

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Giver by Lois Lowry

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris

Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine

A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Sex by Madonna

Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard

The Witches by Roald Dahl

The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein

Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry

The Goats by Brock Cole Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane

Blubber by Judy Blume Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier

Final Exit by Derek Humphry

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Beloved by Toni Morrison

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard

Deenie by Judy Blume

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden

The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)

Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole

Cujo by Stephen King

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy

Ordinary People by Judith Guest American

Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Crazy Lady by Jane Conly

Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher

Fade by Robert Cormier

 Guess What? by Mem Fox

The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Native Son by Richard Wright

Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday Curses,

Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen

Jack by A.M. Homes Bless Me,

Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya

Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle

Carrie by Stephen King Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge Family

Secrets by Norma Klein

Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole

The Dead Zone by Stephen King

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

Always Running by Luis Rodriguez

Private Parts by Howard Stern

Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

Running Loose by Chris Crutcher

Sex Education by Jenny Davis

The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene

Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts

The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney

Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Writing Prompts:

1.  What is your favorite book on this list?  Why is it your favorite?

2.  Write about censorship and your feelings about it.

3.  Have you or any of your books, thoughts, or feelings ever been censored?  How?  What happened? 

What book would you use to swat a fly?

August 13, 2010

I picked up a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly and opened to the page where they asked authors questions about books.  The quirky question that jumped out at me was:

What book would you use to swat a fly? 

What a terrific question!   Years ago I picked up a young adult novel and began reading.  The two girls, who were best friends, talked to each other.  It went something like this: 

“Mary, I do so admire your father, the town vet, who took care of my horse when he was so sick and saved his life.” 

“June, we’ve been best friends since kindergarten.  Isn’t it great to have been friends for ten years?” 

I read a few pages more, and yes, the author continued to give information the characters already knew in dialogue rather than in narration.  Of course I didn’t read it. 

Which classic have you never read –but pretended you did?  

As a children’s author, you’d think I’d have read all of the children’s classics.  In college, I played a role of the queen in a take-off in Alice-in-Wonderland.  I double-majored in education and children’s theater.  OF COURSE everyone in the child drama center knew that book by heart.  Everyone but ONE PERSON. 

Uh-hem.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get through that book.  Of course, a little background information of the time and place when the author wrote it may have helped me but that never happened. 

Eventually I did ‘fess up and admit I hadn’t read it.  A copy was bestowed upon me and I can’t remember if I choked my way through it or not.  (Apologies to all Alice fans out there!)

Tell us what your favorite childhood books were.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, The Little House in the Big Woods series by Laura Ignalls Wilder, and The All-of-A-Kind-Family series by Sydney Taylor. 

Are there books you’ve gone back to and read over and over again?

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank.

Is there a book that scared the pants off of you?

If there had been I would have closed it so fast . . . I wouldn’t have read it. 

Seriously, although I love good suspense stories, they don’t seem to “stay” in my mind as other books do.

Is there a book you always meant to pick up but never did?

I never read Gone with the Wind.  I asked my mom to give it to me for Christmas one year as an adult and she did.  And yet, it still sits on my shelf unread.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because I’ve already seen the movie and I know how it ends? 

What do you want to read next?   I have a book by Carson McCuller’s The Member of the Wedding on request at the library.  It was suggested by a friend.  I love adult books where the main character is a child.  Another friend told me I have GOT to read the children’s books Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Perry and Chicken Boy by Frances O’Roark Dowell.  I read her fabulous book Falling In so now I’m hooked on her!

What the New York Times Says About Reading Young Adult Books

August 9, 2010

I’ve read children’s books all of my life.  So it’s affirming that the tide is turning and grownups are reading young adult books because they enjoy them.  

Although I do resent the line in the following New York Times article saying these books are easier to read and take less thinking than adult books.   Both adult books and children’s books have their share of fabulous reads and lousy ones.  You can’t lump them all together. 

As for a few good examples of young adult books with depth, read Holes by Louis Sachar.    The Giver by Lois Lowry.    Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.      And my favorite, written by a teenager herself . . . A  Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/books/review/Paul-t.html?_r=2&scp=1&sq=YA%20literature&st=cse

Books Kids Are Reading

June 18, 2010

We asked the kids at the workshop to share some of their favorite authors and titles with us.   Here is their list:

Walter Dean Myers

The Warrior Series by Erin Hunter

Rita Mae Brown

Sarah Dessen

Harry Potter

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Blue Bloods Series  by Melissa de la Cruz

Miss Delacourt Speaks Her Mind by Heidi Ashworth (and upcoming Miss Delacourt Has her Day)

Calling Students, Teachers, Readers, Writers and MORE!

November 10, 2009

California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch
http://mtdiablowriters.org/
Announces a FREE opportunity for students, educators and readers to meet published authors – – – and students, how to win hundreds of dollars by writing!
Saturday, November 28, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Pleasant Hill Barnes and Noble
522 Contra Costa Blvd. (Phone: 925-609-7060)

*Students! Discover how YOU can win $$$ by writing poems, short stories, or personal narratives!

*Learn how you can take a FREE writing workshop taught by authors Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff.

*Find out answers to questions about writing, publishing, agents, and how YOU can become a published writer!

*Uncover published authors’ writing secrets!

* Receive guidelines for the Young Writers Contest for middle school students and sign-up forms for FREE workshops.

*Get autographs from authors!

Schedule: 11 a.m. – Noon
Nannette Rundell Carroll – Communication and Business Author
Margaret Grace – Author of Mystery Series
Noon – 1 p.m.
Nannette Rundell Carroll – Communication and Business Author
Barbara Bentley – Memoir Author
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Ellen Leroe – Young Adult Author
Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff – Picture Book Author
4 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Barbara Bentley – Memoir Author
Lynn Goodwin – Journaling Author
5 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Margaret Grace – Author of Mystery Series
Lynn Goodwin – Journaling Author