Homework time!

I’m feeling confident in the writing schedule that I have established over the past week (well, it really established itself), and I’m psyched on the story I’ve been working on. I’m actually going to go back and label all the story pieces “Victoria” for now and create a category. Clearly that’s not even a working title, just main character’s name for now. I had professors in college who insisted upon working titles. I’m not into it. I’d rather write from the inside and have the story work itself out first instead of on some level trying to make the story fit some name that I came up with when I barely knew what I was writing. I suppose I could call it “Hottie Farmer.” Then maybe the title would do some good – inject the story with a sense of humor and not let me forget it. OK, “Hottie Farmer” it is!

This has nothing to do with what I intended to post; such is the free form of the a.m. recap I guess. My current focus is on what I should be reading. In college, I was totally up-to-date on the latest and greatest in YA and middle grade fiction, but like I said before, we barely had cell phones then. So I’m a little out of touch.

This morning I had a book talk with my ten-year-old neighbor who insists I read The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, which looks right up my alley. She is currently reading Island of the Blue Dolphins. I was so psyched to hear this, because that’s one of my top three children’s books – two out of three were favorites from childhood that, after rereading in college, remained so. The other from childhood was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and the one I discovered in college was the Phantom Tollbooth. I liked – and continue to like – reading about different worlds, particularly when they are closely connected to our own. Spend a night in a museum? Cool. Find Narnia through a closet? Awesome. Build your own shelter, forage for food, and tame a wild beast as a pet? Wicked.

So I suppose I should reread some of my favorites and figure out why they worked, but I also have to see what’s going on out there now. A quick skim of Amazon’s Teen page makes it seem like every YA reader alive is reading the Twilight series (which, by the looks of it, I would have eaten whole at age thirteen), so that’s on the list. I guess I should check out Meg Cabot. I don’t know why I’ve been avoiding her books for years, maybe because I have a general suspicion for books with cute titles. (Unless they’re British.) OK, a quick search just revealed that not only have I been mixing Meg Cabot up with Megan McCafferty, I’m attributing to her The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which not only did she not write, but some dude did. Meg Cabot is the Princess Diaries writer, and I might like her stuff. Well, that’s settled. The Meg/Megan with C’s in the last name confusion makes sense, but how the hell I got Stephen Chbosky mixed up in there, I’ll never know. (Does anyone else confuse Tom Robbins, Tim Robbins, and Tim Burton? I seriously have to stop for five minutes and think before I say one.)

Jerry Spinelli has some new ones out, so I’ll have to check those. I could check out the newer Francesca Lia Block books, but they just deplete what little self-esteem I have as a writer. She awes me with her description. I’ve noticed the name Sarah Dessen popping up. I’ll have to look at that. And good ol’ E.L. Konigsburg is still spitting ’em out. I’d love to see if there are kids texting and emailing in her more recent books and if it seems natural or comes off forced.

[One of the things that’s so tough about email and text in writing for me personally is that before technology was such a part of everyday life, when writers used letters or messages in novels, it always came off as gimmicky to me. It is a cheap device. So to have that opinion so set in my mind, I’m still having trouble coming to terms. The next scene in my story will involve email, so let me know if it comes off gimmicky.]

I’m going to try knocking off two to four books a week and dissect them. Luckily I have a million gift certificates to the book store. Too bad our library’s YA collection is so lacking….



  1. Sada said

    I’ve been on a bit of a YA reading bender, so let me share some finds with you:
    I LOVE Catherine Gilbert Murdock (The Dairy Queen and also its sequel, The Off Season) and Blake Nelson (to be fair, I’ve only read Girl, but it was AWESOME, and I have another one of his books slated to be next). John Green’s stuff (Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines) is also great. The British Mates, Dates series, on the other hand, is total crap and should be strictly avoided. I’ve only read one Sarah Dessen book and felt so-so about it. (Remember that Mandy Moore movie we rented? That was based on a merged version of a couple of her books.) Haven’t read any Meg Cabot, but I’m curious. You should post reviews maybe.

  2. ifyoubelievethenclap said

    @ Sada: Thanks for the recs. I will definitely be posting reviews. Yes, Sarah Dessen’s books looked like they might be similar in subject to mine, but I’m wondering if I’ll like them.

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