Sunday, September 30, 2012

Deeper Into the Fringe


You would think writing about the fringe would be easy for me. I was born there, I grew up there. In many ways I live there to this day. And yet as I set out to write something, it feels oddly difficult, as though I were attempting to describe the experience of breathing air, or asking a fish to describe water. I don’t know (at least not first-hand) what it’s like in the middle, so it’s hard to make comparisons.

My characters have always been outsiders. Because…well, I’m not sure. Because I know their experience, because I want you to accept them. Because the mainstream does not ultimately strike me as very interesting.

I could be wrong, and I don’t say it as a point of pride, but I think when I write characters on the fringe, they are farther out on said fringe than most writers write, and most readers expect.

Take Ernie, in Diary of a Witness. He’s overweight. Which is nothing much. Lots of people are. And lots of authors write characters who are overweight. And yet…when I read about them, this number is thrown my way…this number of pounds of dreaded overweight…and it doesn’t seem too extreme to me. It’s introduced as this major disaster, and, though I believe it may be to the character involved, it seems less than disastrous to me. Ernie is more than a hundred pounds overweight. He’s deep into the fringe, not on the edges of it. Most people would choose to portray a weight problem using a milder example. But I’m not sure why.

Or when I write about age differences in a relationship. Which, I should say, I mostly don’t in YA, but not everything I write is YA. In Walter’s Purple Heart (though there’s a reason for it that’s not worth going into) I have a relationship between a man in his 20s and a woman in her 60s. In Love in the Present Tense, when I handed it to my Doubleday editor, Mitch was 20-something and Barb was about to turn 50. My editor said that was too much. She really felt it would freak people out. I felt that was their problem. Yet I gave in and toned her down to 42. But now I wish I hadn’t. Think Susan Sarandon. Is anyone really going to fail to see it?

I don’t know. Because I’m on the fringe. What seems right to me might not resonate with others. Yet I wonder…are we really so different from each other? I wonder if we freak out not because we really can’t go there or because we think we’re not supposed to. A reference to the Emperor’s New Clothes would probably fit in well right around here. It’s just a theory, though.

Probably my least fringy character is Theresa from The Day I Killed James. She’s pretty and she’s popular. And she does what everybody else around her is doing. She treats the hearts of others fairly carelessly. But in her case it backfires. So her experience puts her on the fringes.

Sometimes I write a character who’s so out there I worry for him (or her). I worry that I’ll lovingly create this character and readers will dismiss him as “too weird.” The guy who jumps to mind is Billy in Don’t Let Me Go (not YA, but some have said it could cross over easily enough). Poor guy hasn’t been out of his house in 12 years. The whole time I was writing him I was simultaneously loving him and worrying that other people would not. But a glimpse at the reader reviews shows I was worried for nothing. Other people love Billy, too. I think it’s because he tries. He really makes an effort to move beyond his hangups. But why is not so much the issue. It’s the feeling I get when I create a character that far from the mainstream and then watch him be met with acceptance. It makes me feel that people are basically good, and can be trusted. And that we’re going to be okay after all.

It’s a triumph if I can make you love a character you might dismiss in real life. I think it’s the reason I do what I do. And keep doing it. And that has to circle back to the fact that I never hit the mainstream myself.

It’s a logical connection.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

We accept you, we accept you....





 You know what sucks about posting on the 29th? The 1st-28th. I have to go on after two dozen or so talented writers who have already covered all aspects of a given topic, eloquently and humorously.This is an excuse for writing a short article every month.

So here are my thoughts:

-No one is every happy that they ended up conforming. Someday you will see that NKOTB/Hanson/Jessica Simpson CD on your shelf and be deeply ashamed.

-Weirdos make excellent girl/boyfriends. Cool people are high maintenance. The strange people everyone ignores are the ones who take you to secret places, make you laugh, and stand by you when you need a shoulder.

-The more revolutionary the idea, the stupider it sounds. At first:

What, sir, would you make a ship sail against the wind and currents by lighting a bonfire under her deck? I pray you, excuse me, I have not the time to listen to such nonsense.
--Napoleon Bonaparte, when told of Robert Fulton’s steamboat.

-Conformists end up leading dull lives. Weirdos end up doing exciting things.

- In twenty years, people will still care about the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, and the people you hang out with. But you won't, anymore. And you'll be happier.














 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Love for the Fringe


When I was a teenager, I had some great friends. We were a motley crew, really. Among us, a semi-atheist, a hard-core Christian who loved to be challenged, a musician, an anxious Birkenstock clad hippie we picked up somewhere along the way (in the time of flannel), and me.  We had potluck lunches every Wednesday (as I remember, we tried to bring multicultural cuisine) and we’d sit on stone benches, sharing, talking, making fun of each other. We’d get strange looks, and who were we kidding, we enjoyed these strange looks. I guess we were on the fringe in a way, somewhat by choice and somewhat not by choice. These friends of mine, they were pretty great. They unknowingly taught me how to be comfortable on the fringe. They showed me how being on the fringe has its benefits; from here you have a completely different, sometimes extraordinary view. 

The fringe is this place that scares some people and others embrace. There have been instances where I’ve felt both ways, but more and more, I find the fringe to be an extraordinary place. When I hear of someone being the least bit eclectic, I want to know everything about them. I wonder how their mind works, what they think. I’ve become obsessed with the lives of artists like Dali, Van Gogh, Kahlo; of poets like Plath, Dickinson, Poe; characters like Camus’ The Stranger and Salinger’s Holden Caulfield.  They all stroll on the fringe. And these characters (whether real or fictional) are the ones I love. These are the characters who don’t quite fit in, who struggle and feel disconnected, who are sometimes lonely, sometimes desperate,  and almost always trying to make sense of what they see, feel, experience.

I think I spend most of my life on the fringe in some way. Not because I’m extraordinary in any way. I’m not. I live a quiet life. I don’t like crowds. I have few friends. I prefer to be away from anything busy because I’m prone to panic and anxiety attacks. And if I’m really honest with you, I have to push myself quite a bit to be social or I could easily develop agoraphobia.  My suburban existence is eerily similar to the opening scene of Edward Scissorhands. The fringe is just where I find myself, which I actually don’t mind, because I like the people I find here, the people I learn about by being here, whether they be from the past, from the present, from books, or real life. 

But the fringe is as strange a place as its inhabitants. In a way, being there can teach you to love and accept yourself in a way nothing else can. But it can also make you isolate yourself. Like most things, it doesn’t present benefits without some danger. But most likely, most definitely, you will find others there. They come scattered, they stagger, sometimes they look worn and tired, but they always have something interesting to say, a new way to look at the old.  The fringe is a well worn path.  And those who tread it are certainly characters, the kind of characters we love to meet, read about, and write about, the kind of characters who never cease to be captivating. I happen to like the fringe, quite a bit.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

On the Fringes (by Jennifer R. Hubbard)

My dictionary includes this among the list of definitions for fringe: “a part considered to be peripheral, extreme, or minor in relation to the main part.”

By that definition, no element in our books should be fringe: everything in the book should be there for a reason, contributing to the story. But in life, we’re surrounded by details that don’t really have an impact on our lives, by random events whose beginnings or endings we never know, by noise that we have to filter out. And so, when we read, we often overlook the importance of little details.

sleepingmThis is where writers can have a lot of fun. Mystery writers are famous for strewing the real clues around in the background, where they are easy to miss but a pleasure for astute readers to spot. I remember how proud I was that I figured out the guilty party in Agatha Christie’s Sleeping Murder before the detective told me who it was! I had learned how to pay attention to clues that seemed fringe but were really central.

holes  whenyoureach

The books Holes and When You Reach Me were enormously satisfying in the way they managed to weave a great number of seemingly unconnected happenings into coherent wholes. We saw one thread, then another, then a glimpse of a pattern, and when we stepped back we could see how every thread fit into a complete tapestry.

I’ve never managed to scatter puzzle pieces so widely before fitting them together at a story’s conclusion, but I did include some hints early in Try Not to Breathe about a couple of secrets that are revealed at the end.
TNTB thumbnail2

Fringe details make rereading a pleasure. When we know how the story turns out, certain little items that were mentioned casually jump out at us now. We see their significance and realize how they subtly influenced us the first time around, building a world in which even a surprising conclusion seemed right and inevitable.

So pay attention to those fringe details ... because you never know!


*New World Dictionary, Second College Edition

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing on the Physical Fringe - Guest Post by Ripley Patton



Most of us have felt “other” at some time in our life. We’ve felt like an outsider, obviously different from those around us, but keeping that secret tucked away deep inside of us where no one can see it. We strive to blend in, a natural survival mechanism. Standing out gets you singled out. Singling-out is what tigers do to a herd of antelope to catch and eat the weakest one. Looking like everyone else is an instinctual way to protect ourselves. Wearing the right clothes. Having the right hair. Covering up the zits. Acting like everyone else even when we know we’re not. It’s all part of the survival mode of a teen.  

But what happens when you can’t hide your difference? How does the teen blend who has a birthmark on their face, or rolls into class in a wheelchair every day? How does the blind or deaf kid survive the rigors of being singled out, the daily gauntlet of acceptance or rejection?
­­­­

In my upcoming YA novel, Ghost Hand (coming November 2012) the main character, Olivia Black, is born with a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma or PSS. Instead of a flesh and blood right hand, Olivia is born with a mass of ethereal energy emanating from her right wrist.­­­­­ Olivia has been different all her life, but when her ghost hand suddenly develops the ability to pickpocket people’s souls, Olivia discovers just how deeply some differences go. 

Making Olivia a character on the physical fringe was no accident.

My older brother was born with a cleft lip and cleft pallet. The inside roof of his mouth, his upper lip, and the tubes in his ears did not finish forming and, as a result, he had to have many surgeries to repair these defects. He spent every holiday and school vacation in the hospital. He didn’t just feel different on the inside. Everyone that looked at him saw his difference.

As for me, I was his little sister and I looked up to him. I thought he was brave, and stoic, and amazing. His senior year of high school it was finally time for his final cosmetic surgery, the surgery that would make him look like everyone else. But he went to my parents and said, “No.” He told them he wasn’t having that surgery. Looking like everyone else just wasn’t that important to him anymore. And he never did have that surgery.

I have always found myself drawn to stories with physically different characters. One could argue that fantasy and sci-fi, with its comic book super-abled heroes and heroines, is all about taking what society views as a disadvantage and using it to overcome things. My brother didn’t have the choice to blend in with the crowd. He had to stick out, and that made him vulnerable, but it also made him strong. Those are the kind of characters I like to write, and read. Still, we should be careful to avoid common stereotypes and tropes of the physically different character.

Here are a just a few to watch out for:

1. The difference is used as an outward and visible sign of inward evil. This is used all the time in comic books. The villain is defined by his disfigurement (Two-Face from Batman, for example).
2. The different character either dies or is miraculously cured (see this article, 
20 Characters Who Got Their Legs Back), as if there is no in-between, no real way of living with a physical difference.
3. Physically different characters as Christ-figures, super-crips, or vehicles for pity.
4. Physically different characters with no romance or sex life.
5. Unrealistic extremes, no gradients of difference.  A blind person can't see anything, when in reality many blind people can see shades of light. The only kind of Tourettes is the kind where one blurts out obscenities.

Here's an excellent 
WEBSITE on disability tropes to avoid, or think carefully about before using.

And HERE is a blog post of mine with a list of some great fiction containing physically different main characters that break many of the tropes.

Now, I hope you feel inspired to write a story featuring a physically different character, and I have just the place for you to submit it if you are a writer between the ages of 13-19. Beginning October 1st, 2012 I am running a YA by YA Short Story Contest on my website. Rules and guidelines for the contest can be found HERE. Prizes include cash, signed copies of Ghost Hand, and publication in the Ghost Hand series book two, Ghost Hunt (coming in 2013). And don’t delay because the deadline for the contest is November 15th, 2012.

If you aren’t a young writer, please pass on the link for the contest to someone who is.
 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Geek fringe - Alisa M. Libby

Knowing my own experiences and reading these posts, it seems like we all lived on some sort of delicate fringe as teens - or felt like we did, at least. That perception is key, of course.

Do you watch "The Big Bang Theory?" One thing I enjoy about it is that these odd, outcast-type guys have found each other. They went through years feeling out of place, maybe feeling that a place didn't really exist for them on earth (maybe in video games, in fantasy realms and movies). But it did, and that place is with like-minded people. They found where they belong. We should all be so lucky.



I'll close with some wise words from author Sarah Vowell: "Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know."

Sunday, September 23, 2012

pens in their pockets







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At lunchtime, my best friend and I hid in the band room, surrounded by a forest of music stands. Or we carried our brown paper bags to the Tombstone, a slab of rock tucked behind the oak trees. As the rest of 10th grade marched off to the cafeteria, we snuck out of the line. The noise and greasy smells of the campus felt like a prison. As I drifted through the halls, I imagined a Wild West soundtrack in my head—Sergio Leone’s theme strumming its chords. 

My high school didn’t look like the Wild West, but it often felt that way. The unspoken rules were all about survival. On the outside, I was quiet, always doodling stories with my felt-tipped markers, a “freaky girl” like Fin in TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER. I wasn’t given a chance to start over like Aaron in NARC. Secretly, I was praying for escape. Comic books and movies were everything. That’s where I searched for a reflection, a like-minded ghost looking back at me. 

Last year, I listened to Kelly Reichardt give a talk at the Museum of the Moving Image. She spoke about her beautiful film, MEEK’S CUTOFF, and how it gives a different perspective of a familiar genre. Instead of the wide open spaces of traditional Westerns, such as John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS, her lens is almost claustrophobic. No horses galloping across the Technicolor plains. No sweeping vistas dotted with mountains. Her film reveals a more personal viewpoint…the way the long journey might have looked to the settlers’ wives.

Reichardt tells her story through a square-shaped frame, as if we were riding inside the covered wagons with the women. In the opening scene, they slog through water, lifting things above their heads (including a bird cage that will later be empty). In another scene, a character struggles with a shotgun that takes forever to load. What they see, we notice, too. It’s not always what you expect.

“By telling stories, you learn how to tell stories,” Reichardt said at the museum. She also mentioned how it’s important to “stay private” and develop your own style and voice…and sometimes it takes courage. As storytellers, it often means stepping outside the lines. That’s where you’ll find many YA protagonists, the kids on the fringe who are silent, but watching, with a felt-tipped marker tucked in their back pockets.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Writing to the Bell Curve


This is my first blog post with YA Outside the Lines. *waves* HI! I'm very excited to be here and hope you like my post.

Wow, what a topic. Characters on the fringes. 

The more I thought about it, the more I realized all of my favorite characters were on some sort of fringe, some sort of unusual edge that places them outside the world where they want to be, some sort of precipice where their actions don’t merely invite conflict, they make indelible marks on readers.
What is this fringe? It’s the outer limits, the edge of some boundary, anything that falls outside the standard bell curve. Statisticians hate outliers; many delete them from their analyses, preferring to focus their attentions on the masses. But authors? Oh, we love our outliers. 



Take Edward Cullen, for example. As vampires goes, he’s a statistical anomaly. He doesn’t drink humans and he sparkles! Not exactly normal. Memorable, though.  I love his response to Bella when she asks why he abstains. “I don’t want to be a monster.”  Even if you remove the vampire portion of this equation, Edward is still on fringes. He’s the odd man out in his own family – the only unmated member of the household.  Among the humans with whom he tries to blend in, he reads minds. Among the female collective, he’s portrayed as a sex god, but his own Victorian upbringing prevents him from enjoying all that attention. In every group he's placed, Edward falls outside the curve.  (Note: Bella, conversely, is a character readers LOVE to pick on. Perhaps it's because of where she falls on this curve? Discuss... )

Let’s look at Veronica Roth’s popular Divergent character, “Four.” (Spoiler alert) His very name tells us he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the Dauntless. He's not 'normal.' 

One of my favorite characters is Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger, who reminds me of another favorite character, Dana Scully from The X-Files. Both are extremely intelligent women who have little to no popularity with the opposite sex. It takes both Ron Weasley and Fox Mulder YEARS to see these women as more than merely fonts of knowledge. While most girls Hermione’s age are off cheerleading or hitting the mall, she’s memorizing Hogwarts: A History. The boys may be slow, but eventually, both Ron and Fox came to love their ladies not in spite of their minds, but for them. 

While we’re at it, let’s look at pretty much everyone in the Game of Thrones. You’ve got a top-level royal advisor in a city where politics and duplicity infiltrate every level. His honesty and loyalty get him killed (Ned Stark). You’ve got a cruel henchman whose very name makes people shiver but is brought to his knees by the sight of fire (The Hound, Sandor Clegane). There's even a small girl undeterred by fear itself (Arya Stark) even though her father is dead and she's miles from her home and all alone. And finally, there’s The Imp, the dwarf and great embarrassment to House Lannister constantly defending his right to exist and who just may be the biggest character ever written.

The sum total of all these statistical anomalies is conflict in truckloads. Imagine Edward without the mindreading, without his Victorian sensibilities, without his dedication to abstinence from blood. Imagine Four as just Tobias. Imagine Hermione as a typical teenage girl. Where would their stories be if these characters fell inside those standard distributions? 

Characters who are more – or sometimes less -- than what society, their station, their sex, or their social circumstances dictate are all on the fringes. Statisticians can afford to ignore the few who fall outside the bell curve.

But authors should not. 

Who are your favorite fringe characters and why? I want to test my theory that we love these characters more for their fringe-ness :)  [Extra love to anyone who identifies the reference in my rather crude bell curve artwork above.]

Friday, September 21, 2012

MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY BLOG TOUR



I (the "I" here being Holly Schindler, blog administrator) am thrilled to announce that one of our newest regular bloggers here at YAOTL is Rachel Harris, whose debut novel, MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY released this month!  To introduce our followers to Rachel, I asked her to swing by the blog during her blog tour.  I love the passion that drips from Rachel's words as she speaks of her own work, and as you read our convo below, you will, too:




Congrats on your debut, Rachel! 

Thank you so much! This certainly feels surreal =)

Please tell us about MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY:

Sure! My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century is about a young daughter of Hollywood who unfortunately hates the spotlight and is being roped into a huge televised birthday gala by her well-meaning dad and future-step-mother. They bribe her with a trip to Florence, a city she’s been fascinated with forever because of the ties to her birth mother (the one good thing about the woman), and while Cat’s there she discovers a gypsy tent. Needing to do something very un-Cat-like for once, she decides to be wild and steps through the open flap…and soon after exits in Renaissance Firenze.

With nothing but a backpack stuffed with contraband future items, Cat soon befriends her ancestors and gorgeous artist Lorenzo. Her many cultural missteps aside, Cat’s enjoying her Renaissance vacay (as she calls it) until an older man filled with creeptastic amore starts sniffing around. As she struggles to find a way back home, and her own century, she realizes that perhaps an unwanted birthday party might not be the worst thing in life.

What was the inspiration behind MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY?

Once I decided I wanted to write a story where a modern-day girl gets sent to a historical setting, I got stuck choosing an era. I love Regency novels but I also love research, and I’ve learned a lot about the Regency period already, thanks to my book reading obsessions. So after talking it out with my husband, the sixteenth century leapt to mind due to my fascination with the Renaissance and Romeo and Juliet as a teen, not to mention it would then lead to it being set in Italy, a beautiful country filled with history. (The delicious boys and sexy accents didn’t hurt, either.)

But even once I had the setting and the era, I still needed inspiration. I always start with my characters, interviewing them extensively, choosing pictures for them, and making a collage. Then I create a story soundtrack that follows the internal arc of the main character and the major plot lines, so that while I'm drafting, I have a song or two that speaks to the chapter I'm working on. I often turn to the song lyrics to help me add imagery or an internal thought that drives my point home in new ways. It was at this stage that I found the song Love Story by Taylor Swift, and shortly after the video, which is filled with such rich visual inspiration. The song itself ends up playing a key role in the soundtrack.



What’s been your journey as an author? 

My journey began in the summer of 2010 when I read the Twilight series. I fell back in love with reading for fun, and with the entire YA genre. By the end of the summer, I’d decided to try writing my own book. I quickly found a local writing group, dove straight in, and was querying my first novel by Thanksgiving.

I’d read that you should go straight into your next book, not sit around waiting while you query, so I started writing My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century in early 2011. I came up with the idea toward the beginning of January, spent the rest of the month in research, and wrote Chapter One in February. That book was with agents by mid-April. I signed with my fabulous agent in August, and found my home with Entangled Teen a month later. It’s been like a dream.

What’s been the best part of having a book in development?  The biggest surprise? 

The best part is the friendships I’ve made, hands down. Everyone at Entangled has been amazing. The entire editorial team is made of awesome, especially my own editor, Stacy Abrams. She knows her stuff, isn’t afraid to show you how to make a story better, but she’s a total sweetheart and encourager at the same time. And funny! And the other writers….we say we’re a family at Entangled, and we really are. All the authors have been so supportive, especially my fellow Entangled Teen girls. Those are my peeps!

The biggest surprise….how scary it isn’t. It’s like, I knew that editors were just regular people, but I never really thought I could become friends with them, or that they’d care just as much about my book as I do. They’re totally on your side. Oh, and that they don’t freak if you don’t agree with every suggestion or question they have. They understand it’s your baby, and are just trying to make it the best it can be—and boy do they do that!

Has seeing a book through development changed your writing at all?  If so, how?

Yes! Actually, my writing changes ever so slightly with each book. I mean, it’s still my voice and style, but I grow with each book—I handle certain things better, and other elements come quicker. But working with Stacy taught me where to focus, where my strengths are, and how I can increase tension and conflict. Really, the entire editorial process was educational, but my favorite part was copy edits. It’s so much easier to spot redundancies, repeated words, and overused gestures when it’s not your book, but my tics are my tics for a reason, so they stay invisible to me without the help of other people. Along with those strengths I mentioned, my editor really helped me see where my weaknesses were, too, and I like to think I’ve grown because of it (*grin*)

Every author, it seems, has a favorite writing “trick”—reading work out loud, brainstorming while going for a walk…What’s yours?

My favorite trick is definitely my story soundtrack. I burn CDs and have one in the car and one in my laptop. The laptop one I use occasionally before I write a scene to help get me in the mindset and emotional place I need to be in, but the biggest help is the one in the car. As I drive, I sing along to the lyrics and reflect on how they fit where my character is in their growth, why the words speak to their situation, and I always come back home needing to jot notes down. Sometimes entire scenes are changed just from listening to these lyrics, and they’re almost always made better by helping me dig deeper or add more romance or add a bigger dose of humor….I heart my soundtracks!

Please tell us about future books in the works:

In this series, I have a companion novel, A Tale of Two Centuries, that I just completed and sent to my editor. It comes out in June 2013. This was a fun twist because it’s Cat’s sixteenth-century cousin Alessandra who time travels to present-day Beverly Hills. This one is longer and I think goes a little deeper—not to mention a bit swoonier. I had a lot of fun with the romance in this one. Actually, I had a lot of fun with all of it.

Then next December, six months after Alessandra’s story comes out, I have a third book that is completely unrelated, but also with Entangled Teen. Rearview Mirror is a YA thriller with paranormal elements set in my hometown of New Orleans. I’m really excited about this book—probably because I’m drafting it right now!

After that, I have four YA story ideas and a sweet adult romance in the works….we’ll see what my editor wants me to work on first  =)

What are some common themes in your work? What can we always expect from a Rachel Harris novel?

I adore this question! Before I started writing, I researched the industry a lot, and I came across a blog post from an author who mentioned that all of her books have a similar theme at their heart. That statement really resonated with me. I love the idea of a reader knowing what they are getting at the heart of all of your books, so I sat down and thought, “What would I want a reader strolling through a bookstore and scanning author names to think about when they land on my name?”

I came up with a list of adjectives and words that I wanted my books to represent, regardless of genre. It could be YA or adult, contemporary or paranormal, but I knew I wanted certain things to be at their core—my so-called brand. And the tagline I came up with for my brand is Unmask Your Inner Flirt.

I’ll break down what that means to me.

First, I believe people wear masks of different kinds, and at different times. Some are obvious, such as a makeover to get attention, trying on a new role, or trying to be someone we're not. Others are more subtle, such as a character hiding behind a mask of perfection, afraid to make a mistake, always needing to be in control. All the main characters in my books deal with this in some way.

For Cat, hers is a mask of perfection she wears because her estranged mother is a Hollywood star known for scandal, and she’s always trying to overcompensate by never messing up in public, and never letting people too close. It was by getting her out of her element, out of a scene she can control and into one that she can’t, that she’s forced to deal with these things.

(Fun side note: On my soundtrack, Cat's internal arc starts with Poker Face by Lady Gaga because she always wore that mask, and by the end, it’s Love Story because she’s opening herself more to the possibility of love.)

The second part of the brand comes in with the romance. I’m a sucker for a good love story, a happy ending, and humor along the way. To me, the word flirt represents the fun part of the romance, where you might laugh at your relational missteps or get the butterflies in your tummy from just looking at the guy. Those moments will be in every one of my books, too.

I think we all wear different masks at different times of our life, whether we know it or not, and I believe deep down there is a flirt in each of us….a girl (or boy) who loves falling in love and enjoys being swept away with a new romance. And that’s why at the heart of any book I write, you’ll always find these themes. 

GIVEAWAY ALERT: 
...Super-sweet Rachel is also including a giveaway with this post.  One lucky winner will receive a copy of MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY, along with a signed swag pack.  The swag pack includes trading cards of Cat and Lorenzo, a Super Sweet tattoo, a bookmark, a signed bookplate, and a 'super sweet' bracelet.  Our giveaway winner will be announced on September 29th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Be sure to check in with Rachel on her website, and follow her on Twitter or Facebook

Click here for an additional chance to win MSSSC swag!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why write about sexuality if you're not gay? (Lauren Bjorkman)


My debut YA, My Invented Life, centers around big SECRET that drives a wedge between sisters that used to be close. The secret has to do with sexual identity. When the book hit the stores, interviewers often asked me what inspired me to write it.

This question always made me squirm. The easy answer would’ve been, “I wish that funny, uplifting stories with lesbian an bi girls existed back when I was a teen.” Unfortunately that would've been a lie. I am not lesbian or bi. I don't have any LGBT family members. Nor LGBT friends in HS. The challenges of growing up gay did not occur to me until much later. I’m that lame.

In fact, my biggest post-pub fear went something like this: LGBT readers and authors would scoff at my lack of “credentials,” laugh in my face, call me a fraud, or much worse. (False alarm, btw. I learned later that people like me are called allies. I felt very appreciated by the LGBT community.)

Luckily, the interviews were written, so I had time to develop cogent answers.

Reason A: I was inspired by events around my high school reunion. A number of my classmates came out around then. I asked a few about their experience in HS, and was somewhat horrified by their answers.

True.

Reason B: I wanted to write an uplifting story that focused on a friendship between sisters, and how a secret can ruin a friendship. I didn’t want the “coming out” itself to be traumatic.

Also true.

However, the biggest reason didn’t occur to me until after the book got published. Here it is:

I can identify with the pain of LGBT teens that hide their true selves from friends because I grew up in the same situation.

Only different.

My mom died when I was five. She didn’t die in a car wreck, of cancer, or in any tragic, yet socially acceptable way. She killed herself. My Dad insisted that my sister and I keep it a secret. I mostly did. But the secret made me feel ashamed. Dark. Dishonest. Disconnected. Fringe.

And that is why I believe in telling the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Some day, I hope to live in a world where we aren't afraid that others might judge us for who we really are.




Monday, September 17, 2012

FRINGE, a matter of perspective by Wendy Delsol




Fringe.

Shame we think of people as being on the fringe. In this sense, it means on the outside.

So much about life is perspective. If we feel excluded by a desired group or club, it will generate negative emotions. I’ve been there and felt them.

If I could boil my life experiences into a single lesson to share with teens, it would deal with this issue of where and how to belong.


So here’s my advice: Find what you like to do. Find nice people who do that, too. And let go of the rest.

If it sounds simple or trite, I apologize. I do know there are intense emotions and difficult situations that complicate our lives. And I had plenty of insecurities in my youth. But as an adult, I don’t stress much about social circles. Sadly, others still do. The it crowds just get older. They select based on income, neighborhood, career status, etc. Let them.

I prefer to surround myself with people I like and respect. People who make me happy.

Besides my family, I have two passions: writing and tennis. I belong to a critique group, whose members are cherished friends. I’ve met some truly wonderful people via SCBWI-Iowa (our own Jan Blazanin, for example). And I play on a USTA tennis team with some lovely women.

I also don’t force myself (socially) into other people’s definition of a good time. For example, I generally don’t like big parties or social scenes. I’d prefer dinner with a few good friends to a room full of strangers.

Granted, my interests have changed as I’ve matured, but the lesson is the same. Find your thing. Find like-minded souls. And enjoy an experience without measuring it against what others are up to.

Will other people always get you? Probably not. Will some try to make you aware of an exclusion ? Possibly. But do we really want to spend time with such people anyway? Because there is no shortage of terrific people out there. Find them. Reward them with your company.

And remember that bit about perspective. We’re never on the outside of our own experiences. So just make them something you like. With good people.

Now on pillows I don’t mind a little fringe.

And were you to ask my 17-year-old son, it’s a fantastic TV show.

Go with those varieties, I say.