Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why No One Should Ever Read YA


Another day, another think piece about how Young Adult literature is a heaping garbage fire destroying our country one teen and/or adult at a time -- from someone who's read approximately one half of one modern YA book, of course. As a YA writer and reader, I don't even feel angry anymore. I just feel sad for the writer and anyone they may have influence over.

So here's my list of 9 Reasons Why No One Should Ever Read YA

1. All of it is total crap

I mean, we all agree that writers like John Updike, Lewis Carroll, Philip Pullman, CS Lewis, SE Hinton, Maurice Sendak, J.D. Salinger, Charles Dickens, Madeleine L'Engle, William Golding, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Anne McCaffrey are the absolute worst, right? Talentless hacks, the lot of them.

2. Shaming people for what they read is a great idea

In a country where 60 percent of America's prison inmates are illiterate, the cost of illiteracy is $20 billion per year44% of American adults do not read a book in a year, and some states actually base their future need for prison beds on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests, we should definitely be discouraging people from reading what they like.

3. Teens have terrible taste

They made The Beatles and Rolling Stones famous, after all. They're pretty much at the forefront of almost every cultural phenomenon. Maybe it's the fact that they're at the height of mental capacity with the most gray matter available compared to any other stage of life. Obviously, so tawdry.

4. Nothing can be learned from YA books

Just because they discuss social inequity, life & death, gender issues, racism, sexuality, self-confidence, suicide, consequences of choices, self-acceptance, the importance of one person, bravery, and/or the value of friendship and strong family relationships, doesn't mean they have any actual value to the reader.

5. They're totally fun, which is definitely the worst thing reading can be

Research has shown that "reading centered on reading books for fun creates kids who love to read." Who wants that? They might as well be watching reality TV, amirite? Forcing people to read books that make them feel like they're being punished, because you like it or because they're "important" is obviously the best way to make someone a reader.

6. YA books are unrealistically hopeful

Even in the darkest of dark moments, there is still hope, the feeling that everything is going to be okay. The endings are satisfying, if not necessarily happy. And if there's anything that destroys people's lives, it's closure.

7. The main characters are usually likable (even when they're flawed or even actual psychopaths)

And literally no one wants to spend hours on end with someone they actually like. Kindness, optimism, and good intentions are the absolute worst things a character could have. If you don't finish a book with the feeling that humanity doesn't deserve to continue surviving, the author has misled you.

8. YA books change lives (and change is bad?)

People have reported that YA books have helped them overcome depression, gain self confidence, be more open-minded, make real-life friends, empowered them to stand up for themselves, cope with tragedy, inspired them to pursue a hobby, and even *gasp* read more. But change is bad, so that's terrifying.

9. Accessibility is for plebes

Books that entertain, keep your interest, and can be understood upon the first read might as well be printed on the backs of cereal boxes*. If they can't read at a PhD level, they shouldn't be reading at all! If you have to read a book less than four times to fully understand what the author was trying to say, it's not real literature.

*Actually, can we make this happen? Oh man, could I do with a fab short story on the back of my Cheerios. And they have the money to pay the writers!


*sigh* That was exhausting. Here's another idea: How about we just let people read what they want to read and not shame them for it? That could be fun.




Sarah Nicolas is a recovering mechanical engineer, library event planner, and author. She lives in Orlando with a 60-lb mutt who thinks he’s a chihuahua. Sarah writes YA novels as Sarah Nicolas and romance under the name Aria Kane. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing volleyball or drinking wine. Find her on Twitter @sarah_nicolas.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Birthday: KEEPING HER SECRET, an LGBT summercamp romance

Happy Book Birthday to Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas!


All’s fair in love and summertime prank wars

The last person Riya Johnson expected to run into at her new summer camp is Courtney Chastain—her childhood best friend and the girl who broke her heart after a secret, mind-blowing, life-altering kiss. She definitely didn’t expect to be sharing a bunk bed with her for four long weeks.

Courtney has what every girl wants—she’s beautiful, rich, and the object of every boy’s desire at Camp Pine Ridge. Too bad none of them make her feel an iota of what Riya’s kiss did all those years ago. But Courtney needs to uphold appearances at all costs—even if it means instigating an all-out prank war with Riya as her main target.

Neither girl can stop thinking about the other…but that doesn’t mean they can give up past hurts and take a chance on a future together.

Read the first chapter at the Entangled Teen website!

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

What readers are saying

★★★★★"This book deserves all the praise and then some, one of my favorite reads of this year, and maybe even my life. So many parts inspired me, moved me and just made me want more." –Olivia Channel, OliviaChannel.com

★★★★★"Keeping Her Secret is one of those magical books that keeps you turning pages long after you should have gone to bed. I recommend the book completely, and if I were a teacher I would place it on my required summer reading list." –Bonajean McAneney, Goodreads Reviewer

★★★★★"I really loved this book. It was such an honest look at young women learning to accept their sexuality and being comfortable enough to express it." –Bette Hansen, Goodreads Reviewer

About the Author


Sarah Nicolas is a recovering mechanical engineer, library event planner, and author. She lives in Orlando with a 60-lb mutt who thinks he’s a chihuahua. Sarah writes YA novels as Sarah Nicolas and romance under the name Aria Kane. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing volleyball or drinking wine. She is a contributor for Book Riot and at YAtopia.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Newsletter

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Writing Advice

Here's the thing, there's a lot of writing advice out there. Tons. Do a simple Google search and millions of results will ring right up. However, here's the question: how do you know which advice is worth following? For me, this is so subjective, but I do have a way that helps me narrow down which advice to follow, so I thought I'd share it with you.

1) Is the advice from a credible source (publisher, editor, agent, published/agented author, intern, literary critic, master craftsman, teacher, etc, etc, etc.)? This will help weed out a lot of the well meaning but inexperienced people offering advice. Yes, they might have great advice, but better to start off with credible, reliable sources.

2) Reference books on craft by established writers/authors. Will they all agree? No. But are they a good place to start? Yes. I like Donald Maass's books, and Stephen King's. The head of my agency (Carole Blake of Blake Friedmann Agency UK) has a great craft book, too. Read around and see what appeals to you.

3) Do you like what the person writes? If they're published, check out their work. If they're a friend...check out their work. Most authors are more than happy to share a snippet of their own work if you're interested in seeing it, and it can help you decide whether their techniques and craft skills will be something that will benefit you.

4) Follow your gut but be mindful. Don't confuse your gut instinct with inexperienced resistance. If you're sure it's not for you, let the advice go. If you're not sure, get the opinions of other people you trust.


So that's it. Pretty simple but it works for me. Hope it helps you in some way, too!

Happy writing!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Succeed at a Writers Conference

This month I’m attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Conference. This will be my fifth time in six years—my ninth (or tenth?) conference overall—and I’m always excited. I’ll connect with writer friends I may have never met in person, meet writers I admire (if I get up the nerve to actually speak to them!), sit at the feet of my mentors, and soak up amazing writing lessons and advice.
But all the awesomeness comes with exhaustion, pressure, and stress. Pitching to editors (or agents), constantly being in social situations (and feeling like the friendless one at the cool kids party), and having to find a place to sit at every. Single. Meal.
Okay, maybe that last one doesn’t stress out anyone but me. I think camp when I was eleven scarred me for life. I dreaded every meal during that week out of fear that I’d accidentally put my elbows on the table and be sentenced to walking around the dining hall holding hands with a BOY! Terrifying. In my nightmares, I can still hear the little song that accompanied the punishment.
But I digress.
Writers conferences are great opportunities for learning and networking and connecting with people who get you and your imaginary friends. But they can also be overwhelming, even for seasoned, repeat-attenders. Here are my top three tips for successful survival:
  1. Pick your top 2 or 3 workshops or sessions, and give yourself permission to skip any others. The conferences I’ve attended record the sessions, so if I want to “attend” a session that conflicts with another or that session doesn’t hit my top two or three and I really need some downtime because my brain is too overloaded to absorb anything else, I can buy the sessions and listen at my leisure. Because at some point, you will probably feel done in. Which leads me to . . .
  2. Don’t feel guilty because you need an afternoon napping in your room or an escape to a cafe alone to read or reflect. I spent most of the last writers conference in my cabin working on edits. I attended my top workshops and the keynote speaker sessions, but mostly, I took advantage of being on a vacation from real life and in a place where someone else cooked my meals. That was the best use of my time at the conference, and my extensive rewrites were completed and turned in on time. At other conferences I’ve ended up sleeping an afternoon away because of a combination of jet lag, overstimulation, and too much people time. The first few conferences, I felt guilty for skipping class until I realized that guilt left me even more exhausted! Now I get more out of conferences because I plan for downtime.
  3. Remember everyone you meet is just a person. Like you. And probably just as nervous and awkward about meeting strangers. That goes for the famous writers and teachers and for the editors and agents. They’re people, eating the same meals as you, staying in the same hotel as you, subjected to the same exhausting schedule. Don’t be afraid to gush admiration at a fellow author. Don’t be scared to say hi to an editor or agent. Don’t throw up before a pitching appointment. Just don’t do any of those things in the bathroom! Unless you can’t avoid that last one, then please, do that in the bathroom. But seriously, who doesn’t want to hear how awesome their books are? And the editors and agents don’t bite. Take a deep breath, put on a smile, and relax. I know, easier said than done. Just remember, everyone is as freaked out as you! And since they’re all busy freaking out, they won’t even notice that you are too.
At a writers conference, the schedule and the interaction wear me out, but by choosing two or three can’t miss sessions, giving myself permission—and not feeling guilty about!—skipping other events, and remembering to relax have helped me have a more enjoyable experience.

What are your favorite writers conference? Any tips you’ve found for getting more out of a conference?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why Your Story Needs Real Stakes

A couple weeks ago, my husband, Gary, and I settled in for a movie night. After browsing Netflix, we decided on a movie that sounded pretty interesting. After the Dark. 


Here's the synopsis from IMDB:
At an international school in Jakarta, a philosophy teacher challenges his class of twenty graduating seniors to choose which ten of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race in the event of a nuclear apocalypse.
I love the premise. The beginning of the movie caught our attention right away with all the philosophy talk. But it was just that...talk. So we were even more excited when the professor announced that the students would have to decide which ten of them would continue on in the event of an apocalypse.

Except, unfortunately, it wasn't exciting at all. 

The students weren't actually deciding which ten of them would get to live. So there wasn't even the most basic stakes of, like, hurt feelings. They all drew a card with an identity or profession and decided based off those.

Every time they talked out a scenario, we saw it play out on screen. Each time they went through a scenario, ten of them were chosen and the rest died. Death is a pretty big stake, right? Half of the people dying is a pretty big deal? Nope. Because no one was actually in any danger whatsoever. They were really just sitting in a classroom. Still talking.  

That wouldn't have even mattered if the students' grades at least depended on how well they made decisions or if they got to live. But that wasn't the case either. At one point, the professor threatened to dock someone's grade, but he didn't say that until nearly the end of the film. And it wasn't a stake so much as him just being a jerk control freak.

I kept waiting for something redeeming, but when the credits rolled, Gary and I felt robbed. Where were the stakes!? A great idea is just an idea--not a story--if there are no real stakes. 



Your characters or their goals need to be in real danger in order to keep your readers captivated. If there's nothing actually at stake, the reader has no reason to invest their time. There's nothing keeping them glued to your pages to see how and if everything will be all right. Make your characters matter. Make their goals matter. Give such powerful stakes that the reader is personally invested, feeling that if the character fails, they're doomed too.  

Have you seen this movie? Do you agree or disagree? Share in the comments below!   

    

Monday, July 25, 2016

Guestopia - Aften Brook Szymanski

It's Guestopia time, and this month we are thrilled to welcome YA debut author Aften Brook Szymanski to YAtopia! 

In case you're wondering about her Aften - OF COURSE YOU ARE! - here are a few details to get you started! 

Aften Brook Szymanski, at the age of five, once fell on her bum looking out a large picture window while eating a pickle and people laughed. She thought she was funny, life has never been the same. She’s obsessed with LEGOs, cozy reading nooks, and over-the- knee socks. A graduate of the College of Southern Idaho with an Associate of Arts degree, Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science degree, and the University of Utah with a Master of Education degree. Learning is more fun than testing, sometimes we have to endure both.

She lives in a very cold Wyoming valley with her husband, three kids, and one unhappy cat, where they are being cryogenically preserved for all time—thanks to how cold it is.


And now for the interview! Take it away, Aften! 


Is this your first published book?

Yes—through a publisher. Though I have self-published children’s books, mostly for my own kids and family. That is what got me started and taught me that “hey, maybe I can do this writing thing I’ve always loved.” Not everyone considers self-published works to be the same as published.

What’s it called?

Killer Potential

Which genre?

Psychological Thriller

Which age group?

YA or teen

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s written as a standalone novel.

Are you an agented author?

I am not agented. I’d love to have an agent. I’m currently querying a different novel in hopes of finding agent representation.

Which publisher snapped up your book?

BookFishBooks offered me a contract. I had three offers for this piece at the time, and it was difficult to decide where to take the story. I loved the covers that BookFishBooks puts out and they’re contract was very fair. I’ve also loved working with their editors and staff. They’re fantastic.


How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?


I’ve revised a number of areas that just weren’t sharp enough, as well as gone through several rounds of edits. The marketing team lets me know what they’re working on and asks for my feedback, but overall they get the final say. They make good work, so I trust them. I was also able to approve the cover design, which I’m sure stressed the team out a ton. I panicked once of seven times.

Do you have another job?

My favorite job is being a mom. I also work as a teacher for the visually impaired, where I get to do cool stuff like work with braille (only part time). I like to work and have taken jobs from filling in at the local Post Office on Saturday’s for our Post Master to weeding onion fields and picking peas. I’ve worked in a fabric store, burger joint, teen correction facility, psych unit, research aide for a molecular biologist, teaching grade school (this is what my undergrad degree is in), filing HMO’s… I enjoy work where I feel like I’m helping. (I also started working when I was 13 and worked while I was going to college and grad school, which gave me a lot of different work opportunities).

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

Heck yes! There were some weeks when I averaged a rejection a day.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

Probably staring at the blinking cursor of mockery.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

I’m a bare bones plotter. I create a basic outline and beef it up from there.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

This story flowed. Revisions… That was a wrestle, but well worth it.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

Two. I probably should have waited for three. I think Tifani Clark was my first beta reader. We often read each other’s works. She’s an amazing writer.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I circulated through two rounds of beta readers and critique partners. In each round I had between three and five people read and made revisions first on things that were common concerns, and then went into greater detail with each person’s notes from there. I have great beta readers/critique partners.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

Probably twenty-three. By the time I sent to BookFish It had been revised twenty-seven times (at least, maybe more).

How many drafts until it was published?

If I count the edit rounds with BookFish, I’d say thirty some-odd drafts.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

So much. Completely. All for the better.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Sometimes I’d like to make it a happier story, but it just doesn’t fit.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

The part before revision, but the most rewarding part is definitely the revision phases.

What part do you find hardest?

Due to my natural lack of organization, revisions can be a struggle. But, I’ve managed to employ some helps that make it easier for me to tackle everything thanks to amazing writing friends.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?


Both. It depends what’s going on in my day as to whether I can push through or need to just walk away. I’ve found that I generally make better choices to address the barrier if I go with my instinct regarding the hang-up. By that I mean, if I feel the need to walk away, I often discover the problem/solution engaging in other activities. Or if I feel I can push it, the scene often materializes.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

I try to work on one project at a time, but might also be doing revisions while working on a new WIP.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?


I’m a firm believer in dedication over talent. I am not naturally talented in writing. I am dedicated and in love with writing. Determination to learn skills in areas I fall short has helped me continue to progress. I love that.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Way too many. I have an abundance of ideas and not enough time to write them all. I have a folder with story ideas that continues to fill all the time.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I write all the things (minus articles). I love venturing into different styles. Though I admit I am not skilled in every genre of writing. If I worked at each genre I’m sure I’d improve in those areas, but I might not ever be awesome at them all.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

When someone relates to something in the story. That’s my favorite thing in the world.

Give me one writing tip that work for you.

“Whether or not you write well, Write Bravely.” –Bill Stout

And one that doesn't.

“Write every day.”

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

Trust your instincts or accept the consequences.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?

Q: “Are those salon made silver streaks in your hair? It looks amazing.”

A: “Nope. That’s all my own self-grown wirey-gray strands or life experience and awesomeness. Gray Pride.”

Best question and answer ever! 

Well, thank you, Aften, for taking the time to pop by. We wish you all the best with Killer Potential and implore lovers of dark YA fiction to get out there and buy this book! Here's the blurb and some essential links! 

BLURB

Seventeen-year- old Yvette Gibbs was just admitted to the hospital psych unit in handcuffs as the main suspect in a murder case, which she refuses to talk about. 

Drugs and depression claim her family—leaving Yvette to fight her own demons alone. Adopting the skill of master of passive-aggressive vengeance lands Yvette in the psych unit with no family support, unless she cooperates with her therapist to clear her name, also a convicted murderer.

Yvette wants revenge on the world that taught her to be afraid, claimed her mother to depression, hid her father in a fog of job hopping, turned her brother to dealing drugs, and swallowed her sister whole, but to achieve this she must lie, manipulate, and most of all survive. Pitting her dead sister’s shady friend whom she fears against the man who reminded her she’s not immune to victimization, is her perfect solution to all life's hassles, even if that means she ends up with blood on her hands. Until everything backfires.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Showing Character Reaction



It’s pretty tricky when writing character body language and facial expression to avoid being repetitive. As an editor I see a lot of authors struggling with this. I read an abundance of eye rolling, shrugging and lip biting and numerous times by different characters in the same manuscript. Of course, these are absolutely fine to use because they show and don’t tell.

·        Eye rolling perfectly demonstrates that ‘Urgh, this is sooooo embarrassing’ reaction.

·        Shrugging is a clear ‘I don’t know’ or ‘Whatever’ response.

·        Lip biting shows a ‘How am I going to get out of this?’ concern.

So, yeah, use them, but don't over-use them. It figures that the more extreme emotion – like fear, delight, shock – the easier to put a reaction into words. But, what about the more subtle reactions? Like intimidated or offended. Those that need ultra fine detail to let the reader know precisely what the character is feeling.

The best sure-fire way to help is to grab yourself a mirror...

 

 

And be the characters in the scene you’re writing!

Or, if you are just too embarrassed to behave in this manner or are defunct of human emotion, then analyse the actors in a movie or TV show (the lower budget and tackier they are the more helpful they can be because the actors are nearly always over-acting) or just look up some GIFs/pictures on the internet.

Like here...
Intimidated




There is a fine line between showing intimidation and fear. Because even though they are different, they definitely stem from the same receptor.

·        There could be cowering, instantly making their body smaller, rolling in on themselves.

·        The arms come in, the body turns away, the face the same, but the eyes might stay with the intimidator; maybe darting away but coming back to check where the person is, what they are doing and saying.

·        The knees might bend, backward steps are taken, even a seat.

·        If another person is there they may move closer to them, try to blend into their body, or just touch them in some way, grab their hand for protection.

·        Fidgeting, or perhaps the opposite, they stay statue-still.

And here...

Offended.


So this reaction has a number of tell tale signs and can often depend on the exact situation in which the character is offended. Like, for example, if it’s by their boss and they have to maintain ‘face’ in front of their colleagues isn't the same as when it occurs on a drunken night out with mates.

Here are a few possibilities:

·        An immediate dip of the eyebrows to create a slight frown.

·        The head could come forward just slightly like a tortoise’s head pops out its shell, but then it goes back. Or the chin comes up as if the person’s absorbing the verbal punch there. Or maybe the opposite and the head is driven back.

·        The eyes could get a little wider, maybe even the eyebrows pop up then back down in disbelief as the person moves their head to the side so they can’t be seen.

·        The mouth might open just slightly as a small intake of breath occurs. Nasty words want to come out, but it might not be the right time to react; the person might need to swallow their thoughts and move on. Or they might just grit their teeth, thin out their lips.

Or, you know, they might just do this...


It's clear when you start writing reaction and from these options that every character and situation you as a writer put them in is going to be unique, so how you convey visible reaction is going to vary tremendously. Giving your character habits they fall back on when feeling certain emotions is a great help. But also, to accompany the physical, external movement, as shown above, the best weapon you have to get a character’s true emotion across to the reader is their mind. Access your character’s thoughts so the reader can hear exactly what’s being felt and how it’s being processed.

Intimidation

‘John strides toward me, his mouth curled into a smile only I can see. I turn my body away and fold my arms. I try to keep eye contact but I can’t. His penetrating stare is boring deep, right into my grey matter. I lower my head and study some old breadcrumbs from my sandwich on the tiled floor. I would give anything not to be here right now.’

Offended

‘My hand freezes mid-restyle, my fine hair tickling my skin. Did he really just say that? How dare he? My heart is thumping like horse hooves on turf; a tingle moves up my neck as I grit my teeth. I finish my plait and swallow down my reaction. I’ll get him back. Not here, not when he’s expecting it.’

Have fun!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Words in a Time of Arms

The world is a mess. It’s a very scary, sometimes violent, place. And it feels like it’s getting worse. I try to comfort myself and say it’s just a matter of media. With smart phone cameras and instant sharing, it’s easier to see the latest horror. Just because we didn’t always have instant upload of violence doesn’t mean it didn’t always exist. But whether the world has become a more violent place or not, you can’t hide from the terror that coats the planet.

Then I sit in my dressing room at the theatre, or finish writing a new chapter in a book, and I wonder how I can be so complacent? In a world where refugees are starving and people are afraid to celebrate their holidays in public, how dare I spend my time doing things as silly as playing the Wicked Witch or writing about magic? I war with myself. Decide to quite all art and join the Peace Corps. But then there’s a moment, a wonderful moment, when I realize that what I do is important.

The moment comes in different ways. An audience member who finds me after a show to tell me that it was the most fun they’ve had in a long time. A reader who says that they stayed up all night to finish a book. When I realize that the undercurrent of the story I’m writing might lead readers to a more compassionate point of view, or make one LGBTQ teen feel like there is another distant person on their side.

What we do as artists – authors, actors, painters, musicians – is important. We are important. Art is important. No, we aren’t doctors. We aren’t saving a bombing victim’s leg or life. We aren’t policemen who put themselves in danger to stop mass shootings. We aren’t creating new laws for a safer tomorrow.

We are the people who distract from the pain. We are the ones who teach without classrooms.

We tell stories that remind us of the past and show what the future has the potential to become. We have voices that people want to listen to. And we can use those voices to tell stories of inclusion, compassion, and the terrible things that happen when we forget the most important things about being human.

It has been said that my generation is less likely to trust the media. There is a theory, and I for one believe it, that it is because J.K. Rowling taught us not to trust The Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter will say anything for a headline, no matter how untrue the story might be. J.K. Rowling made us think for ourselves, to doubt and to question. She didn’t preach, she just wrote. How magical is that?

Our voices may not be as loud as J.K. Rowling’s, but we as a community of artists and authors can be heard. Our voices are important. Our words are important. And together we might just mold the world into a less frightening place.

Words in a Time of Arms

The world is a mess. It’s a very scary, sometimes violent, place. And it feels like it’s getting worse. I try to comfort myself and say it’s just a matter of media. With smart phone cameras and instant sharing, it’s easier to see the latest horror. Just because we didn’t always have instant upload of violence doesn’t mean it didn’t always exist. But whether the world has become a more violent place or not, you can’t hide from the terror that coats the planet.

Then I sit in my dressing room at the theatre, or finish writing a new chapter in a book, and I wonder how I can be so complacent? In a world where refugees are starving and people are afraid to celebrate their holidays in public, how dare I spend my time doing things as silly as playing the Wicked Witch or writing about magic? I war with myself. Decide to quite all art and join the Peace Corps. But then there’s a moment, a wonderful moment, when I realize that what I do is important.

The moment comes in different ways. An audience member who finds me after a show to tell me that it was the most fun they’ve had in a long time. A reader who says that they stayed up all night to finish a book. When I realize that the undercurrent of the story I’m writing might lead readers to a more compassionate point of view, or make one LGBTQ teen feel like there is another distant person on their side.

What we do as artists – authors, actors, painters, musicians – is important. We are important. Art is important. No, we aren’t doctors. We aren’t saving a bombing victim’s leg or life. We aren’t policemen who put themselves in danger to stop mass shootings. We aren’t creating new laws for a safer tomorrow.

We are the people who distract from the pain. We are the ones who teach without classrooms.

We tell stories that remind us of the past and show what the future has the potential to become. We have voices that people want to listen to. And we can use those voices to tell stories of inclusion, compassion, and the terrible things that happen when we forget the most important things about being human.

It has been said that my generation is less likely to trust the media. There is a theory, and I for one believe it, that it is because J.K. Rowling taught us not to trust The Daily Prophet. Rita Skeeter will say anything for a headline, no matter how untrue the story might be. J.K. Rowling made us think for ourselves, to doubt and to question. She didn’t preach, she just wrote. How magical is that?

Our voices may not be as loud as J.K. Rowling’s, but we as a community of artists and authors can be heard. Our voices are important. Our words are important. And together we might just mold the world into a less frightening place.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Writing Representation by Calista Lynne

Today I'm delighted to hand over the blog to YA author Calista Lynne, whose brand new book WE AWAKEN just released from Harmony Ink Press!


Writing Representation

by Calista Lynne


People fear the unknown. Maybe that’s why there’s an odd amount of stigma

surrounding asexuality. This sexuality is so underrepresented in the media that a lot of people

don’t even know it exists, or if it’s brought up the response is some sort of joke about the

Whenever asexuals are represented it’s usually in a narrative where they can be “cured”

in the end. This is extremely invalidating for young people who might already feel broken. They

need positive examples to aspire to but I have yet to see a story where an ace character, let

alone one in a f/f relationship, gets a happy ending. So that’s what I wrote.


My novel is about two female asexuals in a same sex relationship. It is young adult

magical realism and has all the cheesiness and joy you could hope for from a romance in that

genre. Although there has been a good number of books recently with gay boys getting happy

endings, heterosexuals are generally the ones who ride off into the sunset at the end. How are

people supposed to expect that they can hope for something more than tragedy when there

aren’t any examples of it? Representation matters and poor representation can be toxic as well.

Take the sheer amount of lesbians who are killed off on television for example.


My recommendation for you is to create the representation you wish to see in the

world. 

Don’t worry if the story doesn’t seem marketable because people will come around and if

you’re passionate, the world can see that. If someone isn’t the first to do it then no one can

follow in their footsteps and there will never be positive role models. Just also keep in mind that

there will be haters, or at least people who don’t understand. For example, my father keeps

saying that I write about alternative sexualities. Except being ace isn’t alternative. It’s not an

edgy choice or a type of music it is literally just a sexuality like all the rest. Not to mention there

are people who won’t get it because they don’t want to. Whenever someone leaves a review

explaining how they believe asexuality to be a choice and not one they agree with, I contradict

them by selling more copies to people who will understand and appreciate the validation.


My goal is to one day see books about marginalized groups not being viewed as niche

writing or alternative, but instead just as books like all the rest.


And if my novel about ladies loving ladies sounds of interest to you, here’s the synopsis:


Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car

accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance

Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she

encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose

brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of

their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria

understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes

human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore

New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like

any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties

creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.



~Suzanne~