Tuesday, June 25, 2013

TBR Tuesday: Some Quiet Place

I have to admit, the first thing that grabbed me about SOME QUIET PLACE was the cover.  That's right, I'm a cover whore lover.

But then I read the synopsis, and some of the advanced reviews, and I really thought I'd have to get my hands on this book when it releases on July 8th.

What do you think?

I can’t feel sadness, anger, or fear. I can’t feel anything. I’ve grown talented at pretending.
Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them in human form. Longing hovers around the shy, adoring boy at school. Courage materializes beside her dying friend. Fury and Resentment visit her abusive home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, except beautiful Fear, who sometimes torments her and other times plays her compassionate savior. He’s obsessed with finding the answer to one question: What happened to Elizabeth to make her this way?
They both sense that the key to Elizabeth’s condition is somehow connected to the paintings of her dreams, which show visions of death and grief that raise more questions than answers. But as a shadowy menace begins to stalk her, Elizabeth’s very survival depends on discovering the truth about herself. When it matters most, she may not be able to rely on Fear to save her.

Amazon  |  IndieBound  |  Goodreads

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What's My Next Line?

For this edition of Whoseywhatsit Thursday, I thought we could play a little game.

Image Credit
You've all heard of that campfire game where someone starts a story and with each consecutive person the story grows, right? Sure you have. It always amazed me what stories came out of that silly game. In actuality, it wasn't silly, but creative. We were all inspired and didn't even realize it.

So, want to play? *You are very important to us here at the Oasis.* Okay, I'll go first, then each of you can add the next line in the comments. Can't wait to see what we come up with! And if we write enough, I'll put it all together and post it back here. :)


The splintered deck railing pressed into his chest.

Your up!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TBR Tuesday: Storm & Siege, Charm & Strange, Winger

It's Tuesday - time to talk about a book in our To Be Read stack.

I just ordered 3 books from Amazon, so I'm definitely excited for these :)

Storm and Siege by Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Synopsis:
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. 
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Charm and Strange by Stephanie Keuhn

Goodreads Synopsis:
No one really knows who Andrew Winston Winters is. Least of all himself. He is part Win, a lonely teenager exiled to a remote boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts the whole world out, no matter the cost, because his darkest fear is of himself ...of the wolfish predator within. But he's also part Drew, the angry boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who, one fateful summer, was part of something so terrible it came close to destroying him. A deftly woven, elegant, unnerving psychological thriller about a boy at war with himself. Charm and Strange is a masterful exploration of one of the greatest taboos.

Winger by Andrew Smith

Goodreads Synopsis:
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy./span> 
With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Girl Power - an open letter to girls from Queen Rania

I was drafting a post on "voice," when I saw this letter from Queen Rania of Jordan.  It is truly inspiring  and reminds me why I love writing for teen girls -- they are powerful and conquer any obstacles set before them.  In case you haven't read it, I paste it below.  Enjoy ... and then go help a girl achieve her own potential.  Whether it's through your time or your writing.
Dear Girls of the World,
Some of you will be familiar with the childhood rhyme, "What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice, that's what little girls are made of."
Marketing and stereotyping combine to have us believe that you're also made of pink dresses, pigtails, dolls, ringlets, ribbons, bows and tiaras. That you like cupcakes. That all you will want to be are wives and mothers. That you're more "inclined" to the arts and "better suited" to caring professions like teaching and nursing.
And, maybe, that's true for some. But my daughter Salma teaches me every day that there's so much more to you -- and for you.
Salma is 13, and I can count, on one hand (in fact, on one finger!), the occasions she's worn a dress -- and they've never been pink! Dolls always stayed on the shelf. She's happiest dribbling a soccer ball past her brothers and scoring goals or building model airplanes with her father. She dreams of being an engineer. That's my Salma; that's why I love her.
So, when I think about girls rising, I think of girls like her and her sister, Iman. I think of the millions of courageous girls all over the Arab world and beyond who, every day, summon inner strength, surmount barriers and make a difference in their communities.
Let me tell you about 16-year-old Wafa Al-Rimi.
Some days in Yemen, there's less than one hour of electricity, so studying is tough.
"We were tired of darkness," Wafa said in an interview.
Rather than accept defeat, though, she built foundations under her dreams. With help from business mentors, she formed an all-female company that created solar-powered lights. They won INJAZ Al-Arab's Best Company of the Year in November.
Wafa and her friends are part of a new generation of independent-thinking Middle Eastern girls: torch-bearers and trail-blazers.
Today, almost as many girls as boys attend primary and secondary school. In the majority of Arab countries where there's data, women outnumber men at university, and more women than men study science.
I see and I hear that determination to succeed every day in Jordan.
Recently, I visited a girls' school in the south of Jordan where 12-year-old Noor told me about her grandmother, a famous storyteller who narrated other people's stories. Noor was proud of her "teta," but she had her own dream.
"I want to be mayor," she said. "I want to build a library full of books; I want to build a park so that children can play safely."
Noor wanted to write her own story. I knew then that she, and girls like her, would write a new chapter for our region.
It won't be easy. We have a long way to go. Increases in girls' attendance at school and university are not yet reflected in politics, the job market or society's mindsets. And there are still 5 million girls out of primary and secondary school across the Arab world.
But as the political, social and economic plates shift and settle around our region, there's never been a better time for girls to rise up and share their talents with society. And, girls! Society has never needed you more.
We know that in every country around the world, healthy, educated girls can play a crucial role in stabilizing societies, resolving conflicts, bolstering democracies, strengthening economies and nurturing healthy and educated children.
But they can't do it alone.
Role models can inspire. Campaigns can motivate. But if we want all girls everywhere to rise up, then we must find them, befriend them and support them.
That means going outside our comfort zones. Maybe they're recovering from civil war in Sierra Leone, like Mariama -- now educated and a popular radio DJ. Maybe they're trapped in servitude in Nepal, like Suma -- now an activist working to free others. Maybe they're living in slums in India, like Ruksana -- now strong and in school. (Find out more about their stories.)
And it means using our voices to speak up for those who cannot yet be heard. Lobbying for girl-friendly policies. Working with governments, non-governmental organizations, U.N. agencies and the private sector to create momentum for change.
Will it be easy? No.
Will it be as hard as studying in the dark or sleeping on a pavement? Enduring slavery or rebuilding a life after war? Going to school hungry and still achieving good grades? Certainly not.
And if we falter in our resolve, let's remember the strength and dignity of Wafa, Noor, Mariama, Suma, Ruksana and girls everywhere who, every day, fight for their right to education and opportunity.
If one girl with courage is a revolution, imagine what feats we can achieve together.
-- Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

YA Lit & Social Attitudes

Fashion to hairstyles. Sexual orientation to lifestyles. Racism, bigotry, prejudice, bullying, and even rape. How does social attitudes affect YA literature? 
 (This is a repost from my personal blog. I felt it was such an important topic in YA literature that it deserved a second look, even a third if you'd like to write a post on this subject yourself.)
I recently came across a video showing a young man taking a stand against a fashion mogul. Some of you may have seen this video or read the post. I've posted links to both at the end of this article.

The gist of the story is that Abercrombie & Fitch - huge young adult fashion icon - has publicly stated they want to cut off the not-so-cool-kids from purchasing their products. Uh-hmmm. Excuse me? This is just as bad as the recent admission from Starbucks that traditional marriage lovers should stay home. Dude, I'm cool with however someone wants to live their life, but I'm thinking that being married to the same man for over twenty years kind of makes me a traditional marriage lover.

Apparently, Starbucks believes those who've been in a traditional marriage are against anyone else's views. Or maybe they think we might be allergic to their coffee or that it causes teenage acne; teens do drink boatloads of coffee today, do they not? That must be the reason, yes? And it looks like A&F has developed a perfect description of the not-so-cool-kids in America and around the world. So, who exactly is this group of kiddos?
  • the teen boy, who wears hammy-downs from his cousin because he works two jobs to help his family buy oil for the winter?
  • or what about the sophomore girl, whose eyeglasses are too big for her face but her parents can't afford to buy her more expensive ones?
  • maybe it's the high school senior unable to afford college or simply feels that school is not his/her thing?
  • could it be the teenage cashier or bus-boy, or babysitter? 
Another issue A&F has decided to go public with is their opinion of overweight people, woman in particular. A&F will not make large or extra-large clothing for woman, wanting only the fit or lean woman showing off their brand. 

What I want to discuss today is how social attitudes such as these affect young adult literature and how much responsible should rest on those larger entities for influencing our YA population. Do young adult authors include such dynamics in their stories. If they do, how much responsibility is theirs--ours?

Now, I'm not a bible toting person and I rarely refer to religion here. But the later half of the above sentence brought to mind a life lesson I've learned over the years, which just happens to be a biblical truth: Do well in the smaller things and you will be entrusted with larger things.

We've seen YA literature of the past address racism, prejudice, and teen gangs. To Kill A Mocking Bird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn came out in a time when racism was outwardly prevalent. Did writing about such a social issue during its modern height add to social awareness or simply poke a stick at it, giving haters the nod? The Outsiders released later, but also dealt with racism, gangs, acceptance or the lack of it. Did that story open new views about such issues?

Now writers have no control over how their audience will react to the social issues they choose to explore through their work. However, they can control the manner in which it's delivered. It is my opinion that To Kill A Mocking Bird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The Outsiders did open new views on those social issues. Countless other young adult stories, whose authors had the courage to explore such social thorns and expose them for what they were/are, have done the same.

How did these authors and these particular stories open new views? Was it timing, delivery, character & story setting, a combo of both, or something more? Does society have to be ready for the challenge to change?

Granted, there are more pressing issues than the one raised here about A&F. But we, as young adult authors, are in a unique position. We can stand up and shed light on such issues. And in doing so, we can lean to the right or the left, weaving our opinions through our characters, settings, and overall arcs. We can remain neutral and thread both sides of a social attitude through our stories, letting the reader form their own opinions. We must always remember--as A&F and Starbucks have obviously forgotten--that we're dealing with impressionable teenagers. We have the ability to make a difference, change wrongs of humanities' past, and pave the road for a brighter mankind.

But on the other hand, we are merely writers. Each of us living in our own space and time, towns and ideals--social attitudes. Where do the young adult readers fit into this? My three teenagers would be the first to tell you they know it all or that they can handle it. They've even told me that I've raised them to know better. Although that is encouraging, the world is much bigger than me alone. Then you alone.

With today's social media and technology being merely a fingertip away, teens are inundated with social opinions and attitudes. So many of these are delivered by retailers through products or services attractive to young people. Just look at the Homecoming or Prom gowns of today. Most of the gowns I see make me ask "Where the heck is the rest of it?" Retailers airbrush amazing images of high school girls draped in gorgeous gowns, coxing teen girls to want whatever they are selling. Once again, how does this simple act of buying a prom dress affect YA literature?

Laurie Halse Anderson spotlighted the topic of teen rape in her amazing book SPEAK. The gripping story of a young girl, who was raped yet feared to tell anyone, created a great stir among teen and adult groups alike. As most of you know, that book was placed on a band book list years ago.

Let's talk about branding and platforms. As authors, we all want to sell books. For the most part, authors say they write because they want to share stories with the world, love to create and explore, and simply enjoy writing. But let's be honest, we also have to make a living. So that lends to the subject of platform. What content do I use on my blog? What topics do I steer away from? What social attitudes am I willing to include in my work, and will any of those alienate a group of readers, marketers, publishers? I'm not sure about you, but even though I write for kids/tweens/teens, I'd love for my books to be read by everyone regardless of age, race, status, etc.... The question we have to ask ourselves here is "Am I willing to sellout my personal ideals, morals, and opinions to sell my books? If not, how far am I willing to push the envelope of bucking-the-social-system?"

So why would A&F cut off certain buyers? Is it solely for appearances? Social status? Do authors do the same thing?

How do young adult authors incorporate these social attitudes in our stories without preaching? How do we deliver material in such a way that gives the young adult reader the freedom to form his/her own attitudes and feel courageous enough to stand up for them?

My answer to those two questions is simple: I will remain true to myself in all things, even if it goes against the grain of accepted social attitudes. What is your answer? 

Here are the links:
 ARTICLE - VIDEO. (I would love it if you'd share this article. I'd really like to start a discussion about this, maybe make a difference. THX!)
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