The WWAT Crew Hits a Conference!

There’s nothing like spending a Saturday in a room full of writers, learning from the leaders of the publishing world. This weekend we were privileged to hear from some of the best. Jodell Sadler of Sadler Children’s Literary taught us the ten P’s of Pacing. Vicki Selvaggio of Jennifer DeChiara Literary touched on tension/suspense, dialogue, pacing, world building, plot, characters, and marketability. Jason Henry of Dial Books gave us an insight into the process and work that goes into illustrating picture books. Karl Jones of Grosset and Dunlap cultivated our creativity. Sara Sargent of Harper Collins had us laughing and learning about adding humor to our stories. Today, I want to talk about the last speaker – Carter Hasegawa of Candlewick. Carter taught us the value of losing. Failure isn’t something we often want to think about. Let’s face it, failure is scary, failure is painful, failure is awful. But Carter made us rethink the meaning of defeat. As writers, we put our hearts and souls into telling stories, and then we offer ourselves to the world. I’m not sure if we’re insane, masochistic, or a little of both. More times than not, the world rips us apart. We’re told no, sometimes without knowing why. Rejection, critique, and red wine become an integral part of our lives. Carter taught us that failure doesn’t mean defeat. Every rejection is a learning experience. It makes us stronger and better writers. We’re only defeated when we give up. So the next time that heart-wrenching letter of rejection comes in, drink your wine, eat your chocolate, cry if you must, but afterward, take a deep breath and know that you are one step further in fulfilling your... read more

A Case of the Middles

Like the middle of a novel, the middle book of a series is important. We’ve all read the second book in a series that felt all too familiar or confused the bejeebers (it’s totally a word) out of us. So to help with your middle books, here are a few dos and don’ts. I’ll be referencing an old favorite the Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling. (Just because there are so many middles to choose from, and she got it right!) The Three C’s of Dos: Cohesion: The middle of the series needs to fit the story. Familiar threads should run throughout the entire story and not get lost in the shuffle. In Harry Potter, the themes (good vs evil) and settings (Hogwarts) remained consistent. Each book had its own arc and can stand on its own, but they all flow into one cohesive story. Character: The characters should grow and develop in the middle of a series. Characters should never be flat. Just like in the real world, trials and tribulations change us. Harry Potter doesn’t stay the same uncertain, shy kid. He grows into a strong confident wizard throughout the series, and the change doesn’t happen all at once. Connection: The middle in a series should lead the reader through an entire story from book one to the last book. Harry Potter spends seven years fighting Voldemort. Harry faces new threats, but Voldemort is the ultimate enemy. Each book in the series gives him (and the reader) a piece of the puzzle. The Three R’s of Don’ts: Repeat: The middle books shouldn’t be a basic repeat of book one. Nothing’s worse than reading a book and realizing it’s the same story as book one with different names and places. Rewind: The middle books shouldn’t completely unravel your story line. If you are a master writer, you can probably get away with manipulating time lines and twisting stories into knots. Personally, I’m not. So I don’t. No matter how you write, a story still needs a beginning, middle, and end. Ramble: Unfortunately, some authors use the middle books as filler. It’s always easy to tell an author who never meant for one book to be a series. The middle books usually ramble all over the place. It’s like going to your mom’s house for Christmas. The goal is to keep your reader on the journey, not to visit every family member along the way. So, if you have... read more

The King of All Scares

Amaxophobia is the fear of cars, spectrophobia is the fear of ghosts, and my personal favorite Coulorophobia is the fear of clowns. One man is the master of them all – Stephen King. There is no better way to celebrate Halloween than to read one of his many terrifying books. Here is a quick recap of my top three favorites that relate to young adult literature. Every teenage boy dreams of possessing a hot sports car, but what if his dream car possesses him? In Stephen King’s Christine, nerdy boy Arnie finds a wreck. While restoring the old car, he becomes withdrawn. Soon we discover that the car itself is evil. It systematically murders Arnie’s friends and anyone else who gets in its way. How do you kill an unkillable car? Another one of my favorites is a short story called Sometimes They Come Back. On the way to drop off some library books, two brothers are assaulted by a local gang. They stab one brother to death and the other escapes. Fast forward to the future, and the surviving boy is now a teacher at the local high school. Three mysterious deaths occur, and each time a new kid arrives. The new kids are the old gang and they are the same age they were decades earlier. Terrified, the teacher speaks with an old friend who informs him that shortly after his brother’s death, the gang died in a horrible car crash. Now they’re back. Lastly, the movie that made me hate clowns – IT. No child should ever read IT after dark while their parents are sleeping. There is nothing scarier than an alien being taking the form of a killer clown. Pennywise the clown haunts and stalks the children in a small town. They manage to survive, but Pennywise comes back when they’re adults and the game begins again. So what can we as writers take away from Stephen King? If you want to write truly horrifying novels, prey on people’s fear and amp them up. There is no better way to become a better horror writer than to learn from the master. Happy... read more

The Boys Next Door: Little Women & To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

(Spoilers) Who hasn’t fallen in love with the boy next door? It’s a timeless story that never gets old. Even Taylor Swift wrote a song about it (You Belong With Me- Louisa May Alcott published Little Women in 1886. The March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have to deal with the Civil War and the absence of their father. Next door, a boy named Laurie moves in with his grandfather. Laurie and the March girls become close friends, with Jo especially. Time passes, the war ends, and they all grow up. After Laurie finishes school, he returns home and asks Jo to marry him. Jo, being an independent woman, turns him down. He leaves for Europe, where he runs into Amy, Jo’s youngest sister. They fall in love and return married. In the end, Jo is happy for them, and she finds love with a German professor. They all live happily ever after.   Jenny Han published To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in 2014. Just like Little Women, it’s an iconic story about sisters and their relationship with the boy next door. The Song sisters, Margot, Lara Jean, and Kitty, live with their widowed father. The boy next door, Josh, is best friends with the family. He is dating the oldest sister, Margot. When Lara Jean was younger she had a crush on Josh, and, in order to get over him for her sister’s sake, she wrote a love letter that was for her eyes only. (A habit she has anytime she likes a boy.) In a fit of anger, her younger sister sends the letters to all of the boys. Needless to say, Lara Jean’s life gets very complicated. The similarities between the books are self-evident. Both Jo and Lara Jean are writers. Jo writes stories, and Lara Jean writes love letters. They both have a strong friendship with the boy next door, and both boys end up falling in love with them. What I love about Jenny Han’s book is that she brings a modern twist to Louisa May Alcott’s classic tale. They are both worth a... read more

Romance Clichés in Young Adult

If you’ve ever read a romance novel, you know that there is a standard formula: Girl meets Boy, Girl falls in Love with Boy, Boy does something stupid, Girl and Boy break up, and, in the end Girl and Boy get back together, living happily ever after. Of course, there are always minor variations on the equation. Girl could hate boy in the beginning. Girl could do something stupid. (Although we all know, it’s always the Boy’s fault. #kiddingnotkidding) Young Adult romance is no different. They play into the same old high school romance equations and clichés. These clichés include, falling in love with the best friend, the nerdy girl falling for the high school jock, the nerdy boy falling in love with the high school prom queen, the good girl turning the bad boy good… the list goes on and on. I’m here to talk about books that didn’t play to the clichés and did it right. SPOILERS: The Hunger Games is a prime example. Katniss could have fallen in love with Gale, the best friend. Suzanne Collins played up the love triangle, which is also a cliché, but ultimately Katniss ends up with Peeta. Some people may disagree with me, but Peeta was the better choice and the unexpected choice. The Harry Potter series is another excellent example of unexpected romantic connections. Everyone thought Harry and Hermione would get together, and even J.K. Rawlings admits that it should have been that way. I, on the other hand, love that Hermione got with Ron and Harry got with Ginny. My last example is the classic, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo and Laurie is an obvious match. At least he thinks so when he proposes, but she turns him down. In the end, just when she believes she’ll spend her life alone, her perfect companion finds her. So remember when writing romance into any book, leave the clichés behind and mix up the math. Make your writing fresh and your romances... read more

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