Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SPEAKing about Rape and SPEAK Giveaway

WARNING: This post is about rape. It's not about censorship, which I could go on for days about, because that has been comprehensively covered in other posts. It's not about religion, which I could go on for weeks about, maybe even years. It's not even about Dr. Scroggins and how amazed I am that he has a Dr. in front of his name given the magnitude of his ignorance. Or that he could find a book about rape 'pornographic' in any way. Devastating and tragic, yes. Pornographic, no. There have been many posts addressing the issue how Dr. Scroggins, a self-proclaimed Christian in Missouri, attempted to get the book SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson banned, along with several other books, for being akin to soft core pornography. His actual article can be found here. I will say one more thing about religion. Rape happens to young women (and some young men) of ALL religions, so to imply that a good Christian shouldn't let their kids read a book about this topic is absurd and irresponsible.

My YA hat is off today. I'm writing this as a Ph.D. licensed clinical psychologist who has worked with hundreds of rape survivors. Rape is an ugly act, and we have a tendency to sweep ugly things under the carpet, where we don't have to look at them. This is an issue that is too important to hide.

I've worked with girls impregnated by their own fathers and step-fathers. I've worked with girls whose mothers kicked them out of the house for trying to "steal their boyfriend" after said boyfriend repeatedly raped them. I've worked with girls who 'accepted' rape from family members, hoping it would spare their younger siblings from the same abuse. I've worked with girls who were date raped and did SPEAK only to be blamed themselves or told it was "her word against his," and then had to see the perpetrator in school every day. My heart has broken over and over again for these girls, but one of the best parts of my job is helping give a voice to those who feel they don't have one. Helping them become stronger than they ever thought they were before. Helping them SPEAK.

  • 73% of women are raped by someone they know
  • In the United States, someone is sexually assaulted EVERY TWO MINUTES
  • Approximately 1 in 6 women (and 1 in 33 men) experience sexual assault in their lifetime. In my state of Colorado, it's almost 1 in 4 women.
  • 60% of rapes are NOT REPORTED to the police. That's a lot of women NOT speaking.
(More statistics are available through the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

This is why books like SPEAK are incredibly important in helping young people speak up about the issue of rape. This is true for young woman AND young men. I could write an entire post on the socio-cultural aspects of rape in our society, and how we're collectively responsible for the messages we're sending to young men with our "boys will be boys" mentality. I've worked with many incarcerated boys and men (some of whom were violent sexual offenders), and that's an entire post as well. Suffice it to say that it's important that EVERYONE be educated about this issue, as education is the first step in creating change.

SPEAK is a painful, poignant, and emotional journey through the eyes of a young date rape survivor. Melinda was as real to me as many of the adolescent girls I've worked with. This is a gripping and important story that deserves to be discussed. Yes, parents should be knowledgeable about what books their children are reading. But more importantly, parents should be actively involved in ALL aspects of their child's life and foster an open line of communication with them.

Banning a book about rape doesn't make the prevalence of date rape any less true than banning Copernicus' book on a sun-centered universe in the 1600's made it any less true that Earth revolved around the sun.And it's the year 2010--you'd think we'd have made a little more progress by now.

Okay, I'm stepping off my soap box and will return to writing advice next week. Before I do that, I'd like to give away a copy of the amazing book SPEAK by the extremely talented Laurie Halse Anderson.

To Enter: Just SPEAK. Really--just leave a comment, including a way to contact you if it's not part of your profile, and you're entered. That's it. Contest is open until 9pm ET on Monday. Oct. 4th.

An update on #SPEAKloudly from Laurie Halse Anderson: http://madwomanintheforest.com/the-power-of-speaking-loudly/

We are throwing in a censorship button to the prize pack. No extra entries needed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Contest Monday and SPEAK

Our Sister in Scribe Valerie is clearing out her bookshelves with a Mega Giveaway to celebrate the launch of Tangled Fiction! She's giving away three sets of 4 YA books each PLUS two lucky winners will get their choices of any two books from her massive TBR Pile! This contest is open Internationally! Enter Here. Contest ends: Sept. 30th.

Feeling lucky? There's a new Lucky Agent Contest going on over at the Guide to Literary Agents blog. It's open to those who write urban fantasy or paranormal (either YA or adult). The contest is judged by Marisa Corvisiero of the L. Perkins Agency. 3 winners will get a 10-page critique! Enter by Wed. Oct. 6th. Good luck!

Tomorrow (Tues. 9/28), we're giving away a copy of SPEAK by the amazing Laurie Halse Anderson here at Sisters in Scribe. Come back tomorrow for more information and details on how to enter.

Happy Monday!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

Release Date: October 19th 2010

Reading level, Young Adult

Hardcover, 528 pages

You can see the awesome trailer and other related videos for this book on the website:http://www.nightshadebook.com/

And Visit Andrea on Twitter andFacebook.


Highly recommend this book! It's got great pace (I know over 500 pages looks long, but it's

never boring, I promise), an amazing cast of characters, lust and primal attraction, and Cremer did such an awesome job creating the wolves and her world. This book comes out just in time for Halloween and the story its self takes place around Samhain, so be sure to get it before then!

*Note* We will be doing a couple special Friday posts in the coming months. Be sure to come back and see them!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Things I Try To Remember

When writing fiction:

  • Every scene needs to move the plot forward, needs to accomplish something
  • Every scene page needs tension
  • Don't be passive! Make things happen to your main character, not through a third party
  • Ask yourself if this could be dramatized
  • Be lenient with adverbs (she admonished, gravely)
  • "Substitute the word 'damn' every time you are inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and your writing will be as it should." - Mark Twain
  • When writing an action scene, don't slow it down with descriptions
These are just a few things I keep in mind when writing, most of them have been drilled into my head by my lovely Sisters. I'm sure there's more, but these are probably my most important. I try to keep them in mind with every line I write.

Do you have any little rules you try to write by?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Universe Always Knows

A recent Note From The Universe:

You know, almost anything you feel you "have to" do, like cleaning and washing, can become a chore, even a drudgery; while those things that remain optional, like Disney World and Twister, can seem far more inviting, even fun.

So, as you go down the path of life, particularly when it seems you must force yourself through the motions, it just may help if you pause and give thought to the countless souls who'd give most anything for the option of even your "chores."

Life... it can sometimes be like one of those really, really "good problems," huh?

I got this in my email while slogging through what feels like the most painful and tedious and frustrating revision of my writing life. It made me realize that a year ago, I would've killed to have a finished draft of a novel complete with expert revision notes and people eagerly waiting to read it.

So... I guess it's all about perspective, huh?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Inspiration for Writers

I'm an unapologetic quote lover. Some people find quotes annoying--in which case you probably shouldn't read any further--but I find them inspiring and motivating. Here are a few of my favorites:

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.  ~Anton Chekhov

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.  ~Anaïs Nin 

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.~ Mark Twain

I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter.  ~James Michener

If there's a book you really want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.  ~Toni Morrison

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. ~ E.L. Doctorow

Here are a few that aren't directly writing-related but can easily be applied that way:

A jug fills drop by drop. ~ Buddha (aka a novel is built word by word, although filling a jug certainly seems to be the faster option)

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing. ~Abraham Lincoln 

Never, never, never give up. ~Winston Churchill

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you are right. ~Henry Ford

Do any of these resonate with you? What's your favorite inspirational quote?

Contest Monday featuring The Bookshelf Muse

Angela Ackerman just hit 1,000 well-deserved followers and she's hosting a fabulous contest to celebrate. Hop on over to The Bookshelf Muse to enter for the change to win a first chapter critique or even a 3-month mentorship with the uber-generous Angela! She'll mentor you, read your entire ms, answer agent/publishing related questions, give blog advice, etc. It's an amazing opportunity for new writers. Contests ends: Sept. 29th.

Our Sister in Scribe Valerie is clearing out her bookshelves with a Mega Giveaway to celebrate the launch of Tangled Fiction! She's giving away three sets of 4 YA books each PLUS two lucky winners will get their choices of any two books from her massive TBR Pile! This contest is open Internationally! Enter Here. Contest ends: Sept. 30th.

If I missed a great contest, please post it below in the comments. Thanks and Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Speak Loudly

We don't usually post on Sunday, but I wanted to let you all know:

It's September and the book banners are at it again. Being challenged this time is SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson - the story of a girl trying to move on after she'd been raped by a classmate. Book banner calls it "soft porn" when there's no sex in the book! Spread the word and fight book banning. #speakloudly

Visit Laurie's blog for more on the conflict and to share your thoughts on the book:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Book Recommendation!

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry; 1 edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416963960
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416963967

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

Think supernatural Sopranos. Great writing, awesome characters, amazing story, hot guy on cover. You have to read it. Now. Seriously. Go!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Author/agent Mandy Hubbard had an awesome post today in which she was kind enough to share a portion of her 11 page editorial letter for her book Prada and Prejudice.

Like me you've probably looked all over the Internet trying to find out exactly what sort of stuff goes into an editorial letter, or what a published book looked like before it was put on shelves. And like me, you've probably found bupkis. Go check out Mandy's post and then come back here.

Back? Okay. Didn't she make you feel soooooo much better? What are some things you've done or told yourself to help you overcome self-doubt?

I wish I had more of a post for you guys today, but you see (Valerie, turn your head) I'm revising my manuscript today. I had some great (I hope) ideas pop into my head this morning when I was half asleep and I'm trying to get them out immediately!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting Emotional

One of my favorite writing quotes is:

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader."
-Robert Frost

I think it's so true. If I'm writing a scene that's supposed to be emotional but I'm not feeling anything, I know it's a flop. If I can't connect to it, and I have all the insight into the characters and events involved, how will anyone else be able to connect?

On the flipside, sometimes I'll be writing and suddenly I'll notice that my shoulders are all hunched up and I'm holding my breath, or my eyes are on the verge of tears and I'm surprised because I was so emotionally involved in what I was writing and what was happening to my characters that I didn't even notice I was upset too. These have been the scenes that my CPs responded to with the same kind of emotions I felt while writing them and it made the pain of having to put them on paper so worth it!

Sometimes I put off writing an emotional scene because I know it's going to be difficult to get through. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!

I know JK Rowling said she cried after she wrote the chapter where Sirius Black died, and again while writing key scenes in Deathly Hallows. And those were definitely emotional for me as a reader.

I always wonder how authors get through the scenes that hit me so hard I have to put the book down. Like in THE HUNGER GAMES when Rue died.

What about you, do you ever get emotional while writing? What are some of your favorite emotional scenes you've read? (No spoilers!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What's the Best Book You've Read This Year?

I want to know what book (or books) rocked your socks this year. I had a different post planned but am completely distracted by the fact that my long-suffering Chiefs are in the process of possibly WINNING the Monday Night game right now--how can I be expected to blog at a time like this?

I'll admit that my book curiosity is part selfish. I finished MOCKINGJAY by the amazing Suzanne Collins this week...and before that, I read MATCHED by Ally Condie and THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger so I'm feeling a little spoiled right now. After those three incredible books, I need something really good to follow them or I know I'll just put it down again.

I have The Passage by Justin Cronin and Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson on my bedside table, but I'm not sure if this week is the right time for them.

So, I'm in desperate need of assistance. What should I read next? Help me, please!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Contest Monday: Cassandra Marshall's Contest of Awesome

WARNING: Amazing contest below!
Would you like your entire (up to 100K) manuscript edited by a YA writer who is ALSO an intern for a literary agent? Then have I got a contest for you! This amazing woman will do a substantial edit of your ms and address things such as plot, pacing, and character development. Hop on over to Cassandra Marshall's blog and enter to win here. Contest ends: Sept. 20th.

Our Sister in Scribe Valerie is clearing out her bookshelves with a Mega Giveaway! She's giving away three sets of 4 YA books each PLUS two lucky winners will get their choices of any two books from her massive TBR Pile! This contest is open Internationally! Enter Here. Contest ends: Sept. 30th.

That's all I've got for this week. Feel free to enter other contests in the comments section. Happy Monday!

Friday, September 10, 2010


I'm messing with our blog design a little bit today. Please bear with me! I should have it up and running soon.

Friday Book Recommendation!

SEA CHANGE by Aimee Friedman

Product Details

  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Point; 1 edition (June 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439922283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439922289

Product Description

16-year-old Miranda Merchant is great at science...and not so great with boys. After major drama with her boyfriend and (now ex) best friend, she's happy to spend the summer on small, mysterious Selkie Island, helping her mother sort out her late grandmother's estate.

There, Miranda finds new friends and an island with a mysterious, mystical history, presenting her with facts her logical, scientific mind can't make sense of. She also meets Leo, who challenges everything she thought she knew about boys, friendship...and reality.

Is Leo hiding something? Or is he something that she never could have imagined?

I can't believe I haven't done this one yet!

This week's recommendation is a book I bought last year at the Brooklyn Book Festival when the author was there signing! It's a great read and one of those books that just feels like a breath of fresh air.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Brainstorming; How Do You Do it?

I'm sitting here trying to revise (which is nearly impossible since my three-year-old um...became three years-old) and so naturally that means I am procrastinating on the internet. I came across a post by paranormal author Kait Nolan today about writing things down with a pen, instead of on the computer.

I'm sure most of you have already figured out that your brain works differently when you write freehand as opposed to staring at your computer screen. I'm a panster, meaning 90% of my writing is done organically without outlining or planning. After I've got a decent draft, or most of one, I work things out in a notebook. I'll write down what I have, what I want, and possible routes to get there.

One of my writing colleagues at Tangled Fiction asked me what I do to brainstorm (some people like to lay on the floor and listen to music) and I really couldn't think of anything. Aside from working things out in a notebook, I don't think I really have any brainstorming tactics. Sure, ideas pop in my head when they're least expected and I'm forced to scribble on my arm, or leave myself voicemail. But I don't have a routine for it. Riding on the back of my husband's motorcycle helps to open my mind (it's ridiculously relaxing) but because I'm a mom that's not an easy option. Stuffing your kids in a saddlebag is frowned upon.

So what do you all do to get the creative juices flowing?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who Are You Writing For?

YA Author Hannah Moskowitz had a really interesting post last week that I highly suggest you check out. It asks the question what are we, the YA writing community doing to YA? Are we letting our own (mostly adult) loves, insider knowledge, and community closeness dictate what kinds of books for teens get written and published? Have we become so insular that we can't see outside of ourselves to what teens REALLY want to read because we're so focused on the kind of YA that we want to write and read?

It's a fascinating post that touches on things I had never really thought about, but I'm thinking about them now. The first question I asked myself after reading this, was, do I do any of those things? I think, subconsciously, as writers, the more we become involved in the writing community, and examing written works with a writer's eye, the more we begin to think strategically, (as in, well, there's 5 mermaid books coming out next year so I need to do something different) and the more we try to push the envelope (as in, Wow! That book with 4 first person POVs was awesome! I wonder if I could do one with 6!).

I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, and more than that, I don't think it's something that can be consciously controlled. Creative ideas spark creative ideas in creative people. Greatness inspires dedicated people to push themselves further. But I was struck by a point Hannah made, she said:

"...a teenager who loves vampires wants to read more about vampires. She doesn't give a shit whether it's out or not. So is our perception of a "saturated" market affecting her?"

And I thought, this goes back to the idea that as writers, we should write the stories that call to us, not the ones we think are going to sell, because we don't know. And now she makes that even clearer by pointing out that we may be doing our intended audience a disservice by putting aside the book they want to read just so our peers won't say, "You're writing another vampire book?" Or a contemporary, or an angel book, or whatever. Which is a shame, because peer pressure is one of the worst things about being a teen. And I think Hannah's right. We shouldn't dictate what's "cool" for teens. It's not possible anyway. If we decide "the next big thing" and force it down teens' throats, they will simply stop buying books until they find one that does feature stuff they like.

Partly because of her knowledge of the industry and involvement in the YA community, Hannah, a teen herself, said she worries that she doesn't know what teens want anymore. I had to ask myself if I knew, and then I had to be honest and say, I don't, not in the trendy way, anyway.

I write YA because it's where my heart lives. The stories that come to me almost always feature teens trying to figure out where they fit in life, who they want to be. I remember my teen years and how I felt, what I feared, and what I wanted, very clearly, and I write for that girl. She's my BS detector. She's my emotional guide. I hope that some things about being a teen don't change, and that what I write will resonate. I believe that if you stay true to the character and you're emotionally honest people will connect with your work whether it features the latest "cool" trend or not.

What about you? Have you read Hannah's post? What do you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why One Just Isn't Enough

I've sung from the rooftops (okay, not literally, but you don't want to hear me sing) about the pure awesome that are my critique groups. What I've learned is that each beta reader tends to focus on different elements when critiquing, and I need them ALL. Everyone thinks differently, so it's important to have more than one set of eyes on your work. Here are a few of the awesome roles my critique partners have played:

1) Plot Hole Locator. When I handed over my initial draft to one of my critiquers, I was pretty confident that I didn't have any plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. However, to my shock and dismay, this reader found several that would accommodate a mid-size sedan. Not to mention the multitude of pin-prick sized ones that had me smacking myself in the head like "Why didn't I see that?"

2) Word Girl. I'm not being sexist here--it's just that all my betas are female. Feel free to insert word guy if it applies to you. She highlights words that I've apparently used like five times within two paragraphs. My first time through, I took out so many 'justs' and 'thats' it was ridiculous. She's also great at dialogue and knows when it sounds real versus not. Last but not least, she catches overuse of certain things, like, I don't know, em dashes. *cough* *cough* Moving on...

3) Character Arc/Motivation 'Keeping it Real' girl. This is when someone notices that a scene (or entire chapter) isn't in line with the character or didn't fit with their overall motivation and move the story forward. This is more of a big-picture type reader and I can't tell you how valuable it is to have one of these peeps as a crit partner. She also notices when a scene is too passive versus active, and I've learned a ton from her.

4) Beta Who Pushes You Over the Edge. This one has pushed me to the edge of my writing sanity. She's not afraid to highlight an entire scene and say "you've already proven you can write well, redo this" or tell me that an entire subplot doesn't work and "redo it." Of course, she balances that with random comments about adding "mad space monkey sex" so I'm laughing through my tears. And when she tells me a chapter is awesome, I know it's pretty darn good. It's because of her that I re-wrote the entire second half of the book (because I knew in my gut she was right, not because I love re-writing books I thought I'd already finished). The task seemed so intimidating and daunting--sort of like Nemo and the ring of fire--but once I did it, I was really happy with the results.

Of course, my beta readers don't only fall into one of the above categories--they touch on all areas, but they each have strengths in specific areas that combine into an awesome group of critique peeps. I'm so lucky to have such smart, amazing women as part of my writing journey. And the one non-technical role I think we all fill for each other is: CHEERLEADER. We're always there to give each other support and encouragement, and at the end of the day, this is what I value most of all. Thank you ladies!

What about you? Any roles I missed that beta readers/critique partners play in your writing life?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contest Monday

Hope everyone is enjoying a long holiday weekend! I've been mainly off-line this weekend enjoying time with the family, so I have just one contest for you this week--but it's a cool one.

My uber-awesome blog Sister, Valerie, is having a big contest over on her blog. She's giving away a bunch of books from her over-crowded bookcase that looks strangely like mine. It's also a celebration of the launch of a short story blog she's doing with three other talented writers (one of which is my other uber-awesome blog Sister, Lacey). I'm seriously in awe of those who write short stories. I tried writing one last year and it turned into a YA novel--approximately 58,000 words too many to count as a short story. Anyway, I'm so excited to read their work on Tangled Fiction so check it out! Contest ends: Sept. 30th.

Happy Monday! :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Book And A Chat

Hey! I'm still on vacation, posting from my phone, so please excuse my typos and
lack of punctuation. If you see any, pretend you didn't.

This past Tuesday, I was a guest on A Book and Chat with the wonderful Barry Eva. If anyone wanted to read a recap or listen to the show, check out Barry's blog.

Hope you all have a great weekend!
Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Voice - A Question of When

I usually write first person and my narrators tend to talk like regular people. Which means sometimes they say "kinda" and "gonna" instead of the more proper "kind of" and "going to".

In my mind, when I write first person, everything in the book is being "said" by my character, whether it's dialogue or internal thought/narration. Which means that everything should be said the way they speak. But I know others feel differently. Some writers/readers feel that anything that's not actual dialogue should be written in "proper" English. I can sort of see where they're coming from and can see times where this idea of separating narration from dialogue works better than others.

For example, a character who always says "ain't", and is surrounded by people who also, always say "ain't", would sound weird to me if when narrating or describing something, they used "isn't" instead.

So I'm asking for your thoughts on this. Which do you personally prefer? Keeping your characters narration in line with their dialogue, or separating them? Why?
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