Wednesday, December 23, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #12: Laughter

I mentioned it before, somewhere back in the early gifts, but I'll say it again: one of the best gifts writing YA novels has brought to me is laughter. Buckets full of laughter. Backyards full of laughter. Snowbanks full of laughter (can you tell I'm waiting for Santa to bring me a snow & ice storm?).

Like the guys in the photo (photo borrowed from here)--you can't not laugh at them. They're trying to convince my Debs 2009 group that their library deserves all zillion of our books (it's our end of the year giveaway, and if you're a librarian, you should enter!). And they're vamping to Erin Dionne's Models Don't Eat Chocolate Cookies. Seriously, now--they are awesome models. Who wouldn't want to hang out with and write about people like this? I have been way too serious for my entire life, so laughter is the best gift I can give myself. My darling spouse was pretty convinced that SKY wouldn't be funny. But then he read it and, very grudgingly, acknowledged that it was. HA! I crack myself up.

Today is also Festivus (the holiday for the rest of us!), so it seemed like a good day to write about laughter.

This post, blog friends, is also the end of the 12 Gifts of YA. For now, the blog goes dark. I've got a manuscript to work on, and holidays to have--including a 97th celebration for my birthday twin, Elsie Callahan! If you don't know who that is, have I got a book for you . . .

See you in January with more blog fun! And giveaways--you have no idea the ARCs on my study floor. Dare I say it . . . John Green?

Here's to 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #11: Rebellion, and/or Sticking It To the Man

There is nothing better than flipping the bird at someone (metaphorical or otherwise), and teenagers are way better at it than grown-ups are. We tend to remember the consequences, so that gets in our way (for better or worse). But who doesn't love sticking it to The Man, whoever S/He is? I love writing characters who have a seriously degenerate attitude, who do things that piss people off and make people shake their fists in rage. Do these rebels have redeeming characteristics? Sure, and they end up on the "right" side of things, generally. BUT. But. They still need (and deserve) some bad attitude. Everybody does.

When I was a YA, I should have been flipping the actual bird at some people, given how they were acting. Instead I was a good, repressed girl who lived in fear of getting in trouble. Then I got old, and then I didn't care anymore. I don't think I should tell you how I enact my rebellion these days--you might think less of me. But one of my favorite (albeit boring) ways? SKIPPING MEETINGS (unless they're with book peeps). Meetings can be *such* a huge waste of time.

I look like a pretty average mom/teacher/Midwestern white woman, but I'm honestly a late '70s London punk. You just can't see the mohawk. And I think rebelliously, generally in snarky thoughts, but sometimes about stuff like universal health care, and how everyone deserves it. Or I think about ending hunger. Or what I can do to contribute to peace in the Middle East. I am not kidding. Totally rebellious thoughts.

One more gift of YA to go--tune in tomorrow!!

Image gracefully acquired from here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #10: Romance and Luuuuuuuuuuuuve

YA romance is a ton of fun to write. But it's also mysterious and challenging, because my flirting days are long over (though we still try). I do love digging deep into the recesses of my brain and finding that airy, goofy feeling that first love can cause. Case in point: 12/22/09 is the 26th anniversary of the first dance I shared with my silly, sweet, charming high school beau. See? I still remember.

I also like untypical YA romance. In SKY, Morgan's neighbor Tessa declares her affection for Morgan by 1) punching her in the shoulder, and 2) shuffling through a back yard of snow to write "MC + TR" inside a huge heart. Tessa stays away from public acknowledgement because she knows both she and Morgan would get the shit beat out of them. In BEAUTIFUL MUSIC, Gabe and Paige get into "I've fallen for my best friend" love--complete with flirting--but nobody knows what to do from there, and the situation is complicated even further by Gabe's trans-ness. In my WIP, there's more cross-cultural love. This stuff matters to me because there are all kinds of teenagers falling in love in the real world and not all of them are typical boy/girl romances.

I chose Ennis and Jack for my photo because I think BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is the most gut-wrenching love story of the last five years. That kind of unrequited, unavailable romance is something 95% of us recognize, no matter who the players are. Gorgeous film. Gorgeous acting. Heartbreaking story. Devastating emotions. And YA love is tons like this film--beautiful and awful, all at the same time.

I said I wasn't going to talk about emotions anymore, but you have to mention romance if you're going to mention YA. Lately you should mention sparkly vampire romance (gak, eek, no!). But I shall refrain.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #6, 7, 8, and 9: Four Emotions of the Apocalypse

This post reveals a great mystery. Or not.

In my silly YA world, the 4 Emotions of the Apocalypse are anger, sadness, anxiety, and love. I believe them to be the secrets gift of YA. I haven't heard anyone talk about it--so maybe it's just my own weirdness for believing it's a gift--but writing teenage angst is a huge blessing. I get to channel my drama queen tendencies into my characters' lives!

For grown-ups, the negative three of those emotions can be brought on by myriad sources: bills, spouses, kids, jobs, you name it. GROSS. For YAers, on the other hand, those emotions tend to be more pure, more related to identity and learning about the world and themselves. That purity rocks, because it gets me back to the root of what it means to be human, what it means to be struggling to find yourself in this batshit whacked-out world.

Love is almost more tricky than any of the others, but I also believe that kids as a whole love more purely than grown-ups. They don't see the flaws in people/places/things as quickly as us oldsters. Or maybe they love *despite* the flaws, because nobody has told them to do otherwise.

And the apocalypse thing: teenage emotions go BOOOOOOOM, and I adore it. Grown-up emotions do, too, but other grown-ups look down on us when we let it happen. Grrrr. With teenagers, however, angst is *expected*. Excellent! It's a blast when characters lob nuclear emotion bombs at each other, even if they're *my* bombs from the flat tire or the rude colleague.

Enough posts about emotions, yes? Yes. And I have one day of finals left, and 3 YA gifts to go. I can do this!

Image shamelessly swiped from here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

12 gifts of YA #4 & 5: Watching and Boys

I'd better pick up the pace on the gifts, huh? I'm running out of month! Grading has kicked my ass out of the blogosphere.

In any case, two gifts this time. First: watching. I've always been a people-watcher, and (like being an adolescent), now I get to watch people FOR RESEARCH, which is the coolest gift EVAH. It is incredible what you can see and/or hear out there, and watching people always sparks dialogue and/or strange accessories for characters. Plus, I get to watch teenagers--double bonus! In particular, I watch boys. And before you get all smutty in your head, I watch boys because they are FUNNY. Plus they do crazy shit and they don't care what people think. Triple bonus, and a great attitude to have. AND--quadruple bonus--the stuff they cook up to do is JUST PLAIN DUMB. See also: FUNNY.

The kid on the dinosaur is one of the funniest. His name is Kyle. He's the son of some good friends, so I get to watch him often. And, of course, he's now wondering when he'll show up in a book. I tell him it will be soon, because it will be. The kid with Goalpost Mouth is his friend Aaron. Also funny. Kyle + Aaron + my own kid = book in itself.

More to do, friends, more to do, so a short blog entry. But there are more YA gifts out there! I have not yet been conquered by Christmas, the end of the semester, or sheer exhaustion! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT.

I am, however, quite punchy and weird at this point.

Friday, December 11, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #3.5: One Particular YA Peep

Blog friends, today is Agent Love Day, as declared by a few authors who love their agent. Since that is me, too, I wanted to share in the joyousness.

My agent is Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency. She is cool as the day is long. I queried her on December 1st of last year, and she wrote back on the same day--THE SAME DAY. That doesn't happen. In the midst of my decision process, I knew she was the one for me when she sent me song lyrics and said, "hey, your main character is like this." And he was. So I signed, and then there were two of us who were enthusiastic about a small, quiet, musical book with an unusual, maybe-difficult-to-market main character. Plus there was Elvis (!).

After our first rejection in March, she convinced me that Elvis had to go (fair enough, even though I was sad about it). Not long after that, she had some major medical craziness, so I was in some other capable agents' hands for a while. I missed her tons and sent her mix tapes to help with recovery, though I don't know if they did. When she came back this fall, there was much rejoicing. Now we are submitting that small, quiet book, and she is reassuring me that someone will love it just as much as we do. And I believe her.

Amy is brilliant, editorially astute, well loved by other agents, editors, and clients alike, and the absolute best agent a girl could wish for. I am blessed.

And yes, I realize my blog posts have run to the sappy lately. But sap is a deep river within me, and sometimes it overflows its banks.

Photo of Amy by (I believe) her fiancee, Ed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #3: YA peeps

This post could be eight years long (see that crowd to the left?) if I gave everyone the love they deserve, but I'm opting for the shorter version: YA peeps are tops of the top, no contest. During my book journey, I've met more wonderful people--authors, editors, agents, readers, bloggers, book builders--than I can count, and all of us are tied together by our love of YA books.

What I ponder is this: WHY do we love YA? I have theories, friends (of course!). Children's books (in broad strokes) have positive events and feelings in them because--duh--nobody wants to be a downer for a kid. In YA, however, we're allowed some bleakness, some angst, some seriously bad shit. HOWEVER, even if there's no happiness, there's still some hope in there. It's *important*, I think, to give those ever-changing older kid peeps some hope--hope that the world isn't totally horrible, that someone's listening, that people are kinder than they thought. That's partially why I love YA, so I'd bet it might be part of it for others in this biz.

I love you, YA peeps, all of you. Thanks for inviting me into your crowd.

Monday, December 7, 2009

12 Gifts of YA--CONTEST POST: signed books!

My frabjously fantastic Flux publicity friends are running a contst this week to win TWO signed copies of my book! Need a holiday present for a teen--or for yourself? All you have to do is write a fortune. But make it a GOOD one. These folks are smart, funny, and clever--you will have to work hard to impress them!

Flux on Facebook
Flux on Twitter

Good luck!

Fortune cookie photo swiped from here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #2: John Hughes films

Related to the first post, yes, but worthy of its own: John Hughes managed to capture the beauty and beastliness of being a teenager better than anyone (for me) on the planet. Granted, he also captured *my* teenage years, so I identify with those poor 80s people. His films live on as some of the best explorations of 1) what it means to be a teenager, and 2) what it means to be human. If I can write a book someday that's half as good as a John Hughes film, I'll be happy.

My favorites, in order:
1) Ferris Bueller
2) Weird Science
3) The Breakfast Club

I realize I'm bucking the trend by not listing Breakfast Club first, but hey--Ferris has my heart, as do Wyatt and Gary (see photo above). The scene where Gary discusses his family jewels ranks right up there with "I'm On A Boat" (see the previous blog entry).

Besides that, I am raising Ferris Bueller II. And rather than dwell on how crazy *his* adolescence will be, I always try to think of the positive, namely that he's always good for a laugh, and he is smart and clever as hell. Any day the phone call will come from the girl, saying "Hi, Shae, how's your bod?" Then the water tower will no longer say NORTH MANKATO. It will say SAVE SHAE. And then I will have to hide.

Rest in peace, John Hughes. You did your job well.

PS: check out an early clip of someone you may recognize, currently starring as a legendary detective. Lots of current stars with small roles in these films, actually.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

12 Gifts of YA #1: Adolescence 2.0


Seriously--I can watch John Hughes movies (research), or SUPERBAD (research) and take YouTube recommendations from my students (research), like "I'm On a Boat" and "Dick in A Box" (OMFG ROFLMAO), plus I can curse and wear Chuck Taylors and text (at which, for the record, I suck). Yeah, other grownups do this stuff. But do they do it for RESEARCH? For their JOB? Not likely! Ha ha. I rule.

Of course my teenage years were gross, for various reasons, just like most people's were. The biggest legacy of that time: a perpetual view as an outsider, even though I can appear very insider-ish. More about this in another post. But it begs the question: if my own adolescence sucked, why would I want to do it again?

Because it's BETTER this time--different people, more money, no parents, a less isolated place, and a much better mindset, because the stakes are lower. I am having SO MUCH MORE FUN. More on that later, too. I was waywaywaywayway too serious.

Plus there are fewer pimples and less boyfriend angst.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December silliness: the 12 gifts of YA

Okay, friends, here we go with DECEMBER! It's my favorite month of the year--yes, weird, I know, but since when have you gotten less than weird from me? Exactly.

With the holidays rolling up to our doors, at one point or another we'll all hear "The Twelve Days of Christmas," either in the mall somewhere or in our homes (though in my home it's the Bob & Doug McKenzie "Twelve Days," which is a prime example of what I'll be talking about this month). So, stealing the theme of twelve gifts, I decided to talk about the twelve gifts writing YA novels has brought me.

AND . . . dun dun dun . . . there will be at least one contest this month, for GIFTS you can GIVE AWAY! But I'm still plotting and scheming the contest rules.

So stay tuned: the twelve gifts of YA. They will not be beer, toques, and french toast, but they *will* be equally awesome.

(image swiped from here--I haven't been very good at crediting my images--bad interweb hygiene!)