From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

From Adults to Teens and Everything In Between

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Confessions of a YA Addict

Hi. My name is Erin.

(Hi, Erin...)

I'm nearly 24 years old and I...


I love Young Adult fiction.

Whew! It feels so good to get that off my chest!

Okay, perhaps that was a bit on the dramatic side, but that's how it feels sometimes. I cannot tell you the number of times I've been trying to explain to someone a novel I'm reading, and I've finally just resorted to sighing and saying, "It's Young Adult." And then they stare at me like I'm a head case.

It doesn't happen all the time, especially not around my fellow book nerds, but it happens far too often to be ignored.

Usually, if I then go on to explain that I also write Young Adult, I'll get an understanding nod or whoever I'm talking to will at least stop staring at me like I'm nuts. Leading me to believe that it's perfectly okay to read Young Adult if you also write it--have to do "market research," after all--but it's a little strange for a twenty-something to read YA just because they like it.

A few years ago, my local library went through a huge remodel. To prevent the invasion of younger kids in the YA section, which had apparently been getting on the teens' nerves, they moved the whole section to the back corner of the library. They made it into a "cool" space for the teens to hang out, decking it out with restaurant-style booths, bright colors, and a giant glass garage door to section it off from the rest of the building. If I had still been in my teens when they'd done this, I would have been over the moon.

Northwest Library garage door

As it was, I was in my senior year of college.

The way the YA section had been set up previously, it had been sandwiched between the Large Print and General Fiction shelves. As someone who was no longer a teen, it was easy to be inconspicuous when the section was mixed in with everything else. No one ever gave me a second glance.

But there's something vaguely awkward being a twenty-something browsing the shelves in a neon-colored room with a garage door, set way back in the library away from all the other books, so I have to walk past all the people using the computers who give me funny looks as I head in the direction of the YA room. Don't get me wrong, no one at my library has ever said anything to stop me going to the YA room. In the long run, I doubt anyone even cares. But with people's tendency to stare and my tendency to over-analyze such behaviors, I've gotten into the habit of rushing into the YA room, searching out whatever specific author or title I'm hunting, and then beelining my way out of there as quickly as possible.

I hate doing this. I like browsing, but I dislike the awkward staring more. I've always loved reading YA, and I love writing it as well. There's something about the teenage experience that continues to fascinate me. I hate how there's this unspoken awkwardness toward an adult loving Young Adult novels. I hate that I feel so out-of-place in the YA room at my library now and how this very slight age gap between teens and me also puts a gap between me and the "real" adults.

What's the moral of this story? Read what you love. Ignore the awkard stares or the comments or the raised eyebrows or whatever it is you receive when you're judged for what you like reading. No one should make you feel out-of-place around books.

I have a goal to progressively spend more time in the YA room at my library, learn to ignore the stares. Perhaps someday I'll actually sit down and write in there. But while I'm still getting used to the YA room, my love for the genre is still there. That's definitely not going anywhere.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Today Fiction Flurry is lucky enough to be interviewing Young Adult author Jennifer Laurens about her New Release Overprotected. Thanks so much for chatting with us today Jennifer!
For those of you who haven’t yet become familiar with Jennifer Laurens she’s the author of Heavenly, Penitence and Absolution. And let me just say they are exquisite work! If you haven’t read them yet, run-don’t walk, to the nearest retailer and get a copy!

Personally, I can’t wait for you next book, Overprotected, to be released in April 2011.( It's available on Kindle,Nook and all e-versions - :)

Ashlyn: A lonely society princess living in New York City.
Daddy hired you to be my bodyguard.
Colin: Childhood enemy, now her protector.
Daddy thought I’d be safe. He thought I’d never fall in love. He thought he could keep me forever.Charles: obsessed with keeping her safe, keeping her his, he hires the one person he knows she could never fall in love with: Colin.
Daddy was wrong.

FF: Let’s start with a bit about your background…

JL: I'm a SoCal native now living in Utah with my husband of 27 years and 6 children, one of whom has autism.

FF: What can readers expect out of this new story?

JL: This is not your cliche "bodyguard" novel. It's really a coming-of-age story about a young woman fighting for independence, about a family living a life of pretense, about real love gone overboard into obsessive love. It's character complex and highly emotional. It's the first story I ever wrote, and it occupies a special spot in my heart for that reason. I wrote 3 different versions of it! ( not three drafts, three complete, different versions ) before finally choosing this POV to settle upon to tell the story.

FF: I know your novels are more than just teenage angst and love, so what is the driving theme in this one?

JL: There are several basic themes in Overprotected: what is real love? What is right? When are our fears justified? How far is too far to go when it comes to love, family and control?

FF: I have to take the opportunity to quote you: “My life experiences have worked into all of my novels. Some more heavily than others, but parts of me are in each story. I love stories rich in family drama, where family members overcome obstacles through love and miracles.” Any specific examples related to Overprotected you’d care to share?

JL: I'm an only child, and Ashlyn ( the heroine ) is an only child. Her family is loosely based on my cousin's family: only child raised in NYC on Park Avenue. My mother was very protective of me growing up, to the point where I battled feeling obligated to behave certain ways to please her, versus allowing myself to participate in what other teens my age were doing during that time of my life.

FF: How did you come up with the idea for Overprotected?

JL: As I mentioned above, this was my first book I wrote. They say "Write what you know" and, since many of the themes in the book are familiar to me, I strung them together with an unusual love triangle between a girl, a boy and the girl's father. I loved the unusual nature of that kind of love triangle -- but not in a perverted way -- her father loves her too much.

FF: Was any part of this novel difficult to write or research?

JL: Probably Ashlyn's realizations of her parents' marriage. My parents separated when I was 16 and, like Ashlyn, I was mature enough at that age to realize ( and see ) they'd be happier separated. Still, it's not easy seeing your parents marriage ( with all of it's weaknesses ) crumble.

FF: Can you tell us more about your current projects?

JL: It's another early story of mine I'm re-writing for YA.

FF: Any teasers about what you’ll be publishing next? Only that it's another intense story.

JL: I love writing my characters into deep love and plenty of challenges.

FF: Lastly I’d like to blast a few personal tidbits out to our readers.

A must when you are writingmusic. I create a soundtrack for each novel and I listen to it 24/7 while working on the project. Drives me family nuts :)

Book you are currently readingI keep Endless Love by Scott Spencer open and on my NOOK constantly. Other than that, I pick and choose reads carefully because of time restraints.

Favorite quote"No other success can compensate for failure in the home." David O. McKay.

FF: Everyone here at Fiction Flurry would like to send a big THANK YOU to Jennifer Laurens for this opportunity to interview her. Good luck on your upcoming projects Jennifer!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What Makes a Good Romance Novel?

In honor of Valentine's Day, today's post is dedicated to romance novels. As a reader, nothing thrills me more than a well-crafted romance novel.

Romance novels come in all types of genres. Sweet, contemporary, historical, fantasy, and of course, the steamy novel. No matter the genre, there's a certain format that we all look for in order to be satisfied at the end of the novel.

First off, we must start with a heroine worthy of our time. She must be interesting and not completely helpless. Add in an irresistible, handsome hero and a little conflict and you have the makings for a great book.

I don't know about you, but I must have the happy ending. There must be resolution or I'm left feeling disappointed. Here's a list of several good romances that appeared when I researched "Top Ten PG Romance Novels". I selected the ones that appeared on several different lists.

Beauty - A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
Sophie's Heart by Lori Wick
Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland
Frederica by Clifford Norgate
Crimson Roses by Grace Livingston Hill
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.

How about you...what's your favorite romance novel?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Best Writers Are Crafty Thieves

Preserving Family History Through Fiction

I love history. I didn’t always. In elementary and middle school, I quickly became bored with the repetitive stories outlining all the high points of American history. Yes, wonderful things were accomplished, but it all seemed so mundane and academic. What about the human emotion of it all? What did Paul Revere feel deep down during his “Midnight Ride”?

Through the years, I began to realize that the best historians were walking amongst us. My grandmother, for example, was born in 1911. Although she has since passed, the stories she had to tell of her years as a girl and woman during prohibition, then surviving the Great Depression, World War II and Vietnam are spectacular and far more engaging than a lot of what is printed in those dry tomes on the same subjects. Can you even begin to fathom how much changed in just her lifetime? She went from a log cabin with no phone to phones in your hip pocket! It is simply astounding, and her stories were just as extraordinary.

Much has already been written by others on how to capture family history or narrative. One of my personal favorites is StoryCorps, which encourages conversations to occur between the generations. You will truly be surprised when you put on your “listening ears” to learn just how fascinating your elders’ – yes, even your parents’ – stories can prove to be. (I know I was!)

But hey, hold up a minute. I’m a fiction writer. I make stuff up; right? Well, yes…and no. Actually, I do make up some story details…names, descriptions, plot lines. But I steal an awful lot, too! Yes, it’s true: the best fiction writers are no more than crafty thieves. And like the old saying goes, “imitation is the highest form of flattery.”

In my family, there is a great tale of my mother as a young bride, away from home for the very first time in her life, and trying to make her own way. My father was stationed in Germany, and mom had gone over to be with him. Wanting to impress him with her extensive culinary skills (she, in fact, had none), one afternoon she determined to make his favorite dish…baked beans. Seems simple enough, no? Take a few beans, add a little brown sugar, slather the entirety in ketchup. Well, folks, if you don’t cook, you wouldn’t realize that you actually have to soak the beans first – or else they end up as hard as tiny little dried marble pellets. This story was simply too irresistible not to reuse, and thus it went into my first novel.

Think of your family history in this way: taking a story from your family is like taking a ready to wear dress off the hanger. Sure, everyone’s got a dress a little bit like that, but as you take your needle of imagination and your thread of words to it, you embellish it into something that is not only spectacular to read – but also pays homage to those whom you cherish.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Encouraging Your Kids to Write

I suspect that I've always been a proficient writer, but I waited until my late 30's to practice at writing.  Heck, I was an English major in college but never wrote a single piece for the pure enjoyment of it.  My mother, an English professor, always gave me high praise for the papers I would write for school, but I don't remember ever expressing an interest in writing just for myself.  If I had, I'm sure my parents would have offered encouragement, pushing me to pursue something I enjoy.  In writing, I got a late start.

I have an 11 year old daughter who showed an interest in what I was writing, so I challenged her to write something that she would like.  It turns out that she is a wonderful poet.  She's now branching out to short stories and even began a NaNo novel.  My hope for her is that with an early start, she'll be published (if she wants to be) by the time she's in her 20's rather than her 40's like her dear old mom.  Even if publication is not her goal, she's working on treasures that her children might enjoy someday.

If you have a kid who consistently gets good grades in language classes, why not challenge him or her to write a story or poem just for fun?  Here are some resources that might help you help your child:
  • Check with your library, which might have workshops for young writers.
  • Your child's school might have an extra curricular activity for writers such as Power of the Pen or a school newspaper.
  • Plenty of magazines for kids, both online and hard copy, have writing contests or accept submissions from kids.
  • There are a lot of great instructional books for your young scribe. Here are my daughter's favorites:
Juicy Writing: Inspiration and Techniques for Young WritersSeize the Story

My only other piece of advice would be not to ask to read what your kid has written.  If he or she wants to share, then praise the effort and creativity.  Good Luck!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Polishing Your Writing

I will admit up front that misspelled words are a pet peeve of mine. Perhaps it's because I’m a bit...ahem, shall we call it “diligent” about grammar and spelling? Or perhaps it’s just because I love words. Yes, all of them. (Thank you, Mrs. Alexander)

I imagine we’ve all seen an article or blog post (or 2, or 10) bemoaning the decline of the written word in the era of texting, Twitter and the like. If you’re looking for the other side of that argument, this isn’t it. Sorry.

As writers, our job – our whole job – is about choosing the right words. We have a reason for choosing the word “conundrum” instead of the more commonly used “problem.” So after carefully choosing your words, it’s just as important to make sure you’ve spelled them correctly, especially if it’s one of the “problem” words that sound alike but have different spellings. We all remember this from 2nd grade – their, there and they’re come to mind. And don’t forget the words that are misused – effect and affect, for example.

Consider the following sentence: I don’t no what there whether is going two bee tomorrow, but it won’t effect me to much.

Phonetically, you can figure out what is being said, but technically it's not even close to being correct. So you’re probably thinking that Word (or similar word processing program) will catch and/or fix your spelling and grammar mistakes – and I’ll admit, it probably will catch most of them. But it probably won’t catch all of them. There are 7 misspelled or misused words in the above sentence – can you find them all?

If spelling and grammar is something you struggle with in polishing your writing, there are some websites that can help.
Grammar Girl – a great resource for all of your grammar questions
Your Dictionary – there are links on the home page to help with navigating
Google search – sometime the easiest way to find something quickly

Having a friend or group to read your work can also help with this problem. In our local critique group, no surprise, I’m known as “grammar chick” – but really, everyone in our group is good at finding problem words. Yes, even I have been known to screw up a word or two.

Challenge for today: In the comments, rewrite the above incorrect sentence and make it “right.” No peaking peeking at other peoples answers either!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Contests and Conferences

It's that time of year again. Writer's conferences are starting to advertise their dates, classes they offer and what publishers and agents will be available. Many of these conferences also offer a writing contest. Question is, are conferences and contests worth it?

In my opinion I think the answer is a definite yes!

When researching a conference a writer should consider the following: Cost of conference, classes offered, contacts you can make...both agents, publishers and fellow writers. Do your research, it will pay off. Big conferences offer great classes, but don't ignore the smaller conferences, they also have a lot of excellent classes and the smaller size increases your chances of speaking directly with industry professionals.

Writing contests are another way to gain exposure for your writing. If you are already published consider what added exposure this will give your book. If you are still-to-be-published, try to enter the contests that have agents and editors as the final judges. It's a great way to get your work in front of professionals.

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