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?

 

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.

Digital Storytelling

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Today releasing a book is no simple path, there is a labyrinth of avenues one can take, and at the rate technology is evolving, there is no doubt, in ten years the publishing world will be very different from today. This was evident when I went to a talk on Digital Storytelling. This is a rapidly growing area, and Cordelia Funke, author of the “Inkheart” series, gave us an incredible insight into her developments into this field. She told, how out of frustrations with the 90min representations of her books in the movie world, she decided to develop an app called Mirrorworld .
Funke described it as a “Jumpstart to the imagination”. It starts with a mirror that you enter and you discover the Inkheart world. Funke describes the app as a “breathing book, it’s a visual travel guide to my world. If you want to see what a plant looks like you can see through illustrations, it’s accompanied by a soundtrack or you can listen to my voice telling the story”
This app was truly amazing, and the illustrations were beautiful. It’s retailing for 5.99 which some say is pricey for an app, but this is more than a visual book and it is cheaper than most books, by bestselling authors.You can have a look at the app through this link http://www.mirrorworldnovels.com/

The other guest, was Connor O’Brien the co-director of the Digital Writers’ Festival (digitalwritersfestival.com) He recently trialed a digital festival as part of  Melbourne’s Emerging Writers Festival.This was a huge success. People who can’t physically attend a festival, for reason varying from geographical, financial or disabilities, gained the most from the experience. The view expressed from attendees was that it was as good as being there in person, they felt present and embodied. This is obviously a growing field as I saw there is a digital Romance Writers festival on the 7th and 8th of June from Harper Impulse (Harper Collins Publishing). Have a look at the link for more details.http://www.romance-festival.com/
It was a very exciting talk and I wish I had a Tardis to see what the future world of publishing will really be like.

What do you think will happen?

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
Let me first start by saying; I love the cover of this book. It’s the perfect summation of the novel.
Blurb
“Every year at an exclusive private boarding school in New York State, the graduating students uphold a historic tradition – they must swear an oath of secrecy and leave behind a “treasure” for each incoming senior. When Duncan Meade inherits the room and the secrets of Tim Macbeth, he uncovers evidence of a clandestine romance, and unravels the truth behind one of the biggest mysteries in the school’s history”

This is a simplistic summary, and it is a simple story, but it has rich characters and a captivating setting (who doesn’t love a boarding school setting). The main character, Tim, is an Albino, LaBan uses this to emphasize the teenage struggles of ‘do I, don’t I, fit in’. I don’t feel Laban was exploitative or insensitive, I feel she used this condition as an effective tool to express the feelings of many young people.
The “treasure” Tim leaves Duncan, is a set of audio CD’s telling his story of the previous year. Duncan discovers their lives are taking similar and often parallel paths. As Duncan plays the CD’s the story unfolds and we hear how Tim deals with his social inadequacies  at a new school, and as a teenager in love. Tim’s insecurity and self doubt ultimately leads to “the tragedy’. Duncan learns from Tim’s mistakes and discovers insight to himself and his own doubts are reassured through the therapeutic effect of Tim’s CD’s.

What I enjoyed most about the book, is the suspense that LaBan creates. The rhythm of the novel is like a ticking clock. The characters and the reader are hyper aware of time passing. This creates tension and a sense of urgency. We are left waiting for Tim’s words to reveal the secret, and wondering what the tragedy will be. As Duncan is continually drawn back to Tim’s CD’s, so are we. We are given clues throughout the book and can piece together a vague idea of the coming tragedy, but this, in no way, detracts from the book.

I really enjoyed this book, and LaBan’s writing. I found I was grabbing the book at every moment.

Published: 2013
Publisher: Corgi Books
Pages: 308

Five books all writers should own

 

Every writer needs his arsenal of writing weaponry. After the obvious hardware such as pen, paper, computer, (duh!)the most useful purchase is a selection of helpful books. You’ve bought the dictionary and thesaurus (I hope), and if you’re a fantasy writer you may have bought a Lexicon of Myths and Fairytales or a crime writer may have bought a book on criminal investigation procedures, but what other books can help the aspiring writer. I’ve listed my top five and maybe some of you can share books or websites you’ve found helpful.

1.Elements of Style – William Strunk and E.B White

One piece of advice I remember from my studies of journalism at university was never leave home without this book.It is, by far, the best book written on grammar. Every journalist has it in their briefcase/ backpack because it contains wonderful little grammatical reminders that may have slipped our minds. (Unfortunately, the older I get, the more my mind slips)

2. On Writing – Stephen King 

I’m sure most writers have stumbled upon this book. Stephen King’s advice is straight up, no fancy pants talk. He just tells it like it is. I found this book to be practical and inspiring. When I’m feeling out of my depths I like to pick it up and have a flick, I always find something motivational. Here are some of my favourite quotes:

 

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

 “Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

 “Words create sentences; sentences create paragraphs; sometimes paragraphs quicken and begin to breathe.”

 

  1. The Australian Writer’s marketplace

When I graduated from University this was my first purchase. It’s a compendium for writers listing details for submission and contact details for agents, magazines and newspapers, competitions and events, organisations, writers’ services, scripts and courses. My copy was heavily dog-eared, and I purchased many revised editions. This is centred on Australia, but a website that contains a fabulous array of publishing opportunities, for mainly the USA, is: http://www.everywritersresource.com/lists.html

 

  1. The Writing Book –Kate Grenville

This is a practical guide, using exercises, to get the writer started and heading in the right direction. It contains practical advice on character development, plotting, writing dialogue. I found Grenville’s book to be the best in this genre, but I also like Holly Lisle’s online courses “How to Think Sideways”

 

  1. If I Tell you I’ll Have to Kill you – Edited By Ian Robotham

This book is a recent addition to my collection and I’ve just finished reading it, so I thought I’d add it to the list. It is a collection of discussions from some of Australia’s best crime writers. Each writer explains, their writing process and the ins and outs of crime writing and how they came to be a writer. It is interesting (and often humorous) to read the various ways that writers go about their work, some are plotters and some are ‘go with the flow’ writers. This is a good read for all, not just those interested in the crime genre.