Who reads YA?

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The other day I was in my local bookstore (ha-ha nothing new there) and I was perusing the Young Adult section. Another lady, roughly the same age, stood next to me staring at the same books. Every now and then she’d give me a sidelong glance. I thought maybe she needed some assistance in making her choice. So I offered my advice.

“I just finished reading this” I said, holding a top seller in my hand.

“It’ s a really great story if you’re looking for something new to read” I offered.

“Oh I’m not looking for, me my niece is turning thirteen, so I thought I’d look in the teen section,” she said with some undertones of judgment pulsating in my direction.

We continued to have a pleasant conversation and discussed what her niece did and didn’t like. After vetoing a few suggestions the lady happily left with my recommended books of “Fangirl” and “Eleanor and Park” (hello, commission please).

As she exited the store, smiling, my shoulders dropped slightly, did I belong in the YA section? I felt I suddenly needed a story, a rouse, or an alibi for why I, an adult, would be looking in the teen section. I don’t think I’m alone in this dilemma as according to a study by Publishers Weekly 55% of YA readers are adults and 28% of those are aged between 30 -44.

Since the largest purchasers of books are in this age bracket, maybe bookstores should make the YA section more welcoming to this demographic. Is this the reason for the popularity of eBooks in this age group (40%)? Anonymity. What do readers without an eReader (me) do, lurk in the shadows, with a trench coat, hat and dark glasses. I think the simple answer is for bookstores to change their signage from YA to YA and Crossover.

 

Do you feel guilty standing in the YA book section as an adult?

 

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A Family Affair

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Familial traits are things that we’ve inherited beyond our control. No nature v’s nurture debate here; just an observation. Looking at my own family tree, there are writers along my paternal line,but there are also scale- makers, gardeners, jesters and of all things, accountants. I’m curious to see further back, to see if there was a writer in a French garret or an ancestor who hung around with the Jonathon Swift pack. Tracing ones family tree is so interesting you never know what you’ll find – imagine discovering your ancestor was William Shakespeare. It was these ponderings which put this week post in motion. My mission ,if I chose to accept it, (sorry for the pop culture adage, I couldn’t help myself) was to find which well-known writers inherited or passed on their talent.

 

  1. Stephen King – King’s son, Joe King, has been writing under the pen name of Joe Hill (abbreviated form his middle name Hillstrom) successfully for several years’ years. Not wanting to ride on his fathers coat tails he establish a writing career independently. He announced his true identity in 2007.
  2. Martin Amis – This much-lauded writer of London Fields had very big shoes to fill, being the son of Kingsley Amis. Kingsley Amis was a prolific writer who was ranked ninth on The Times list of the 50th greatest British writers.
  3. Mary Shelley (nee Wollstonecraft) – The writer of Frankenstein was the daughter of the feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft.
  4. Bronte’s – Mostly known for the three sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne and their works of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, but the Bronte family came from a long lineage of scribes. The girls father, Patrick Bronte was also a poet and writer.
  5. Alexandre Dumas – Writer of the great Count of Monte Christo and The Three Musketeers he wrote some of France’s best known novels, but his son, also named Alexandre Dumas, wrote some of France’s best known plays, including Camille.

 

Here is a list of current authors, see if you can guess whom their famous parents are.

 

  1. Kerry Reichs
  2. Jesse Kellerman
  3. Dirk Cussler
  4. Felix Francis
  5. Christopher Rice
  6. Carol Higgins Clark

Answers

 

Cassandra Clare and Holly Black -A Good Idea?

The Iron Trial

When two authors team up to write a novel it can sometimes read as disjointed and discombobulating. With this in mind it was with some trepidation that I approached the novel The Iron Trial –Book 1 in the Magisterium series by the dynamic duo, Cassandra Clare and Holly Black.

Let me first state that this is a preview as I have only read the prologue and first chapter. Why write this? I was excited that Clare was taking on the middle school genre, but I was a little nervous as EVERYONE points out the synopsis reads a little like a Harry Potter rip-off. So while waiting for my review copy (come on Random House pull your finger out, ha-ha no honestly love you guys, but I may drop over to Netgalley if it takes any longer)

Here are my thoughts so far.

The Prologue was interesting, yet jumpy.

The first chapter was engaging, well written and had me wanting more.

This brings me back to the point of this post. Can two authors successfully write as one voice? What I’ve read of The Iron Trial has me assuming Black wrote the prologue and Clare wrote the first chapter. If the rest of the novel is written in tag team fashion then cohesion will be its first victim. I have read other novels with duel authors and the result is a loss in continuity and flow. Sometimes the changeover in author is as obvious as a line in the sand.

 

What do my readers think of duel (Yes, duel not dual, as it can be a battle) writers?

The What, Where, Why, and How of Writers

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Is there a magic formula to writing a best selling novel – of course not, but this does not stop me wanting to know all the what, where, how and why’s of my favourite authors. I might uncover some secret that best selling novelists have kept hidden for centuries; they may belong to a secret society. I may stumble upon one quirky habit, that I could adopt, and my writing would be transformed.

My first quest was the Where.

I knew that Mark Twain and Roald Dahl both wrote in their back sheds, but I was looking for more inspirational writers haunts. So, why not start with the master of all writers, the picture above is of William Shakespeare’s house in Stratford- Upon-Avon, England. I didn’t get much from my visit here except that Shakespeare slept in the sitting position, and I wasn’t going to adopt that habit. Next was Charles Dickens house in London, England – a desk and a chair, no secrets there. So while still in England I headed to the more picturesque setting of The Lakes District, this was more to my liking. Beatrix Potter ‘s desk sat under a window overlooking her garden, complete with rabbits, of course. Williams Wordsworth lived in Grasmere by the lake; this environment inspired many of his early poems. One of the last houses I looked at was John Keats. His apartment in Rome overlooked the Spanish Steps; this is now an amazing museum dedicated to English romantic writers. The only thing that these writer’s abodes had in common was pen and paper.

Now to the How.

  •  Roald Dahl always wrote only on yellow paper with a lead pencil.
  •  Jack Kerouac – Would write by candle -light and blow it out when finished for the night. He had many little rituals that probably bordered on OCD, particularly in reference to the number nine. He would also always pray before he started to write.
  • Earnest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov and Philip Roth were all known for writing while standing.
  • Haruki Murakami “When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at 4:00 am and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for 10km or swim for 1500m (or do both), and then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at 9:00 pm. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
  • Vladimir Nabokov –wrote on index cards (this is something I do as well)

What, is a very individualistic area unless you are writing a knockoff, copycat book, which I know none of my readers would do that. So under What I’ve put word count, some writers appear obsessed by this.

  •  Stephen King – would write no less than 10 pages a day. (1800 -2000words)
  • Earnest Hemingway – 500 words a day
  • James Joyce was happy if he wrote three sentences.
  • Lee Child averages 1,800 words a day
  • Arthur Conan Doyle 3,000 words a day
  • Michael Crichton 10, 000

Why?

This is my favourite, who in their right mind would choose to be a writer.

  • George Orwell said writers write for “sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose.”
  • Gustave Flaubert said “Writing is a dog’s life, but the only life worth living,”
  • Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. “
  • Neil Gaiman said “The best thing about writing fiction is that moment where the story catches fire and comes to life on the page, and suddenly it all makes sense and you know what it’s about and why you’re doing it and what these people are saying and doing, and you get to feel like both the creator and the audience. Everything is suddenly both obvious and surprising… and it’s magic and wonderful and strange.”

What did I get from this exercise? I learnt that it doesn’t matter where you write; if you’re waiting for the view then you will be waiting forever, as a writer writes anywhere. I learnt that commitment is important and that may take the form of a word count. I also decided that adding a quirky, ritualistic habit could be a good idea (and fun). Lastly I found  Mr. Gaiman summed it up, for being reminded of why I write is sometimes all the inspiration I need.

 

Poetry in Song

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Like many writers I have a playlist of songs that I write to, but sometimes it’s not just the music that inspires me, sometimes it’s the lyrics. I’m not going to debate the literary merits of song lyrics over literary poetry; to me they are the same. They convey and express emotions, they tell a story and they inspire. I remember the first time I heard John Lennon’s Imagine I was so moved and by his words and still am today. So I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

Robbie Williams “Angels “

I sit and wait
Does an angel contemplate my fate
And do they know
The places where we go
When we’re grey and old
‘cos I have been told
That salvation lets their wings unfold
So when I’m lying in my bed
Thoughts running through my head
And I feel that love is dead
I’m loving angels instead

 

Live “The Beauty Of Gray”

If I told you he was your brother
We could reminisce
Then you would go about your day
If I said you ought to give him some of your water
You’d shake your canteen and walk away

The perception that divides you from him
Is a lie
For some reason you never asked why
This is not a black and white world
You can’t afford to believe in your side

This is not a black and white world
To be alive
I say that the colours must swirl
And I believe
That maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The Beauty of Grey

 

U2 “one”

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without
Well it’s…

Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…

 

James Taylor “Fire and Rain”

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain
I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end
I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend
But I always thought that I’d see you again

 

Bob Dylan “One Too Many Mornings”

Down the street the dogs are barking
And the day is getting dark.
As the night comes in a-falling,
The dogs´ll lose their bark
And the silent night will shatter
From the sounds inside my mind,
For I´m one to many mornings
And a thousand miles behind.
From the crossroads of my doorstep,
My eyes they start to fade,
As I turn my head back to the room
Where my love and I have laid….
Harry Chapin “Cats In The Cradle”

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say “I’m gonna be like you, Dad
You know I’m gonna be like you”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, “Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let’s play
can you teach me to throw”, I said “Not today
I got a lot to do”, he said, “That’s ok
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, “I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

 

 

Dyslexia is not a Disability

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How to engage the reluctant reader is a puzzle many parents would like the answer to. Like any puzzle some pieces go in smoothly and problem solved, but what if the pieces you have just don’t fit. The advice given, as a parent, is to read to your child every night, immerse them in phonics and sight words. What if you’ve tried all of the above and nothing works.

This is where I found myself with one of my children. He is now a teenager and still hates reading. After lengthy analysis it was found he had a processing disorder under the banner of dyslexia. This had me frustrated as the education system is heavily text based, even Math. How was he going to get through high school?

The answer is individual, case-by-case. For us, we celebrate his talents or play to his strengths. Once he was able to choose electives school became less laborious. He still has to get through English and large volumes of text are confusing and tiresome, but school is not all there is to life, and I show him example of others who have succeeded despite being dyslexic (or maybe even because).

Famous dyslexic writers:

W. B Yeats

Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature struggled academically. His school report cards were poor and scholars who have studied his rough drafts have indicated he was dyslexic. He was known for his bad spelling and the inability to edit without reading out aloud repeatedly.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

He also had a great deal of problem with spelling and was kicked out of school at the age of twelve for his inability to focus and finish his work.

John Corrigan

When John’s mother questioned his teachers about his school -work the reply was “Just face it. Some kids are slow” he found the information going in was a struggle, but he could always push it out to make sense – he could write well.

 Patricia Polacco

Patricia did not learn to read until she was 14 and found school a very difficult time. She was fortunate enough that a teacher picked up her learning difficulty and she could adjust the way she learnt. Patricia went on to successfully complete a university degree.

Other writers include:

Agatha Christie, Jackie French, John Corrigan, Terry Goodkind, Hans Christian Anderson, Sally Gardiner.

Other notable dyslexics:

Tom Cruise, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, Sir Richard Branson.

These people can be inspiring, but I like the advice from author Rick O’Riordan whose son is dyslexic

“People who are dyslexic and who are successful understand that while dyslexia may define them, it doesn’t confine them. They understand the concepts of ‘work smarter,’ ‘think differently,’ and ‘I can.’”

And in summary the children’s author and illustrator Sally Gardiner who said “My brain was said to be a sieve rather than a sponge” (This is exactly how my son described his) “I strongly believe that dyslexia is like a Rubik’s Cube: it takes time to work out how to deal with it but once you do, it can be the most wonderful gift”.

What Not to Write

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There are a couple of things that I find annoying; people not using their blinkers, queue jumpers, noisy eaters in the cinema (really important stuff),these little, pesky things disrupt the flow of my day. But they also pop up in novels, not literally these problems, but other things that authors often do that jolt my reading experience out of the fantasy realm back into reality. An author once said if you want to know what not to write, think about the things you skim over as a reader. There are two things that without fail have me flipping through the pages faster than a Kardashian seeking publicity.

1. Dream sequences – I hate them, I never read them, I skim as quickly as I can to get back into the story. Writers often put them in as foreshadowing, some psychic warning, but they are always boring. I know when I have a dream and I want to tell someone, I start to tell the dream and I gradually I see his or her eyes glassing over. It’s not that I’m a bad storyteller, truly I’m not, it’s that dreams are only interesting to the dreamer. So writers, heed my warning, leave the dream sequence out.

2. Overly long descriptive paragraphs – In a genre fiction there is no need to do lengthy descriptive scenes, most readers do not care what the character is wearing, and what they ate for lunch. If it’s not important to the story or characterization leave it out. The one exception is when the writer has a gift with words and the description is so skillfully woven that it creates an emotional response from the reader. Writers like Ian McEwan, F Scott Fitzgerald or Martin Amis, even Earnest Hemingway fall into this category.