24 September 2013

YA novels for your 13-year-old pianist/singer/ songwriter/equestrian/poet/artist daughter

I love sorting through my collection of YA novels to find the perfect book for an avid teen reader, or a reluctant one! Today's recommendations are for a friend's 13-year-old daughter, who has many interests and talents, but hasn't been captivated by a book in a while. My mission... to find a novel she'll love. Here's the care package I'll be delivering to her house today:

Laini Taylor's LIPS TOUCH, a National Book Award Finalist and all-time favorite of mine. It's magical and mystical and swoony and breath-taking. I recommend this collection of three novellas to EVERYONE. If the reader in question also happens to love to draw, all the better. This book features gorgeous illustrations by Laini's husband, Jim Di Bartolo. 

Hilary T. Smith's WILD AWAKE, about a 17-year-old pianist/ songwriter whose world goes a bit crazy in both frightening and wonderful ways. There's music and mystery and madness and murder! And a boy named Skunk, a.k.a. "Love Bison." It's the kind of book that shakes you up a bit, makes you feel WILD AWAKE. So, I'm thinking it's perfect for a reader who needs a book that will really grab her.

John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, the story of terminal cancer patient Hazel and her "gorgeous plot twist" Augustus, will break your heart in the best possible way. Everyone I know who has read this book has loved it. Cried their eyes out, sure... but loved it all the same. (It's funny, too. And sweet and romantic.)

Rainbow Rowell's ELEANOR & PARK is a first-love story about... Eleanor and Park! hah. Eleanor: A big, red-headed girl with an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. Park: A half-Korean boy who has always felt like an outsider in their town of Omaha, Nebraska. They meet, they ride the bus, they share music, they hold hands (and we're talking some seriously intense hand-holding here). What I love most about this book is that I didn't recognize the characters from anywhere else. They are NEW and different and special.

How's that?

OH, and I nearly forgot... THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater! It's the story of a horse race... a deadly one, raced on the backs of killer water horses that rise from the sea! It's also about a boy and a girl and regular horse. Not your typical horse story by any means, but certainly a book a horse-loving girl might appreciate. Add it to the list!

09 September 2013

It's okay to NOT write every day (says the author who took the summer off)...

There are a lot of good writing and publishing tips on the Internet. I am quite certain I would NOT have found my fabulous writing friends or critique partners or agent or publisher (or completed a single manuscript, for that matter) if I hadn't followed some very good advice discovered on author blogs.

But, sometimes... that advice can make you feel like you're doing it wrong. Like this one: "Write EVERY day. Even if it's only a paragraph. Commit to putting words on the page every single day."

I've read that advice in various forms on numerous blogs. Heck, I've even GIVEN that advice. And when I don't write every day, I feel guilty. A little voice inside my head needles me. "If you were a REAL writer, you'd HAVE to write every day or you'd burst."

But there are times when something else is calling to me more strongly than whatever I'm writing. This summer, the voice of my WIP was drowned out by the activities of my children and summer travel plans. Instead of feeling guilty for neglecting my writing, I decided to enjoy it. I spent a week in Paris with a girlfriend (where I did some research for a book but no actual writing). My daughter and I completely redecorated her room (We shopped! We sewed! We painted!) My son had friends over for a DIY screen printing camp in our garage, attended weekly gatherings of a Dr. Who club, and played stand-up bass in a bluegrass band. I shuttled the kids to camp and dance and lessons and friends' houses and pools. I did a full purge and clean-out of our attic play room, discarding toys my children have long since outgrown, and transforming into more of a hang-out (and rock-out) sort of space. Then I reclaimed my office, which had become a dumping ground for STUFF. (All of the stuff.) 

I even sharpened every pencil in the house (we're talking hundreds) and put them in a giant pencil box. 

Some might call this procrastination (or possibly insanity). For me, it was a form of rest and rejuvenation. And you know what happened? Some of my best writing ideas came while I was completely ignoring my writing. They poked through, waking me at night or coming to the fore while I was brushing my teeth. They came to me after seeing something or meeting someone I wouldn't have seen or met if I'd been home writing. I scribbled them down somewhere so I wouldn't forget them. 

Now... it's time to write. The kids are back in school. My surroundings are in order. And a summer's worth of ideas are bursting forth. I feel certain my writing will be better for the break I took from it.