The Magic of Friendship

I’m working on revising one novel and pre-writing another, and one thing keeps coming up with both projects: friendship.

I have two teen daughters, and I can tell you that EVERYTHING revolves around friends. And I remember that from my own teenage years – friendships were all-consuming, intense, up and down, and central to my daily life.

So as I’ve worked on these two projects, it has been especially important to me to make sure that the friendships in my stories are as vivid and central to my characters’ lives as they are in the lives of the teens I know.

Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially if your story and its conflicts aren’t based on your main character’s relationship with his or her friends. How can you ensure that your character’s friendships always feel authentic, rich and real?

I recently attended a talk at my local SCBWI led by editor Abby Ranger. She called friendship a key entrance to your story. Whether you’re writing an epic fantasy set in a completely new world, or a contemporary set in a world that is familiar to nearly all of us, your character’s friendships give readers a view of the heart of your character and her journey.

And friendship is different than other relationships your character has in his life. For one, it’s completely voluntary – friends don’t have to love you like family does. And the relationship isn’t clouded by romantic feelings.

So friendship is important to get right in any story for middle grade or YA. But how?

Take a minute to think about your own friendships. What are they based on?

I have a few friends who have known me for more than 20 years. We share some things in common – kids in some cases, hobbies in others – but our primary bond is one of time and deep understanding. They know what skeletons I have in my closet, they remember when I was a vegetarian who refused to eat beans, and at least one of them was there to drive me home from work when I had a horrid case of the stomach flu.

I have other friendships that have grown from a common interest. My knitting friends know a bit about my life, but they are even more well versed in what yarn-based project I’ve got in my bag at the moment. And of course my Pennies know each and every up and down I have with my fiction writing.

Think about your character and his or her friends. How did they meet? What drew them together? How did they cross that threshold between acquaintances and friends? What keeps them coming back to each other?

What do they know about each other that other characters don’t know? What are their power dynamics – is one the bold go-getter, dragging the other along? Is there a protector and a protected?

As you sketch out this important relationship, consider these tips, loosely gathered from Abby Ranger’s fantastic talk (and with examples from Harry Potter, an epic fantasy series with friendship at its core), for creating authentic friendships that push your characters to grow over the course of the novel:

Lean into contrast/conflict. Friends don’t always get along, and they often grow in different directions at different times. Show those conflicts – big and small – and use them to challenge your main character’s inertia.

HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: When Hermione and Ron begin to recognize their feelings for each other, they each approach those feelings in different ways. That conflict is amped up by the ball and the character of Viktor Krum and adds a great layer of complexity to the story.

Communication between friends often consists of their own language. Show that in both dialogue and in non-verbal communication. Our closest friends can often say a LOT with a tiny change in expression!

HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: How many times do Ron and Harry crack each other up with just a glance?

There is an intimacy in details, so be specific. Use details to show your characters knowledge of each other and their expectations of their friends. HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: When Hermione explains Cho’s feelings of sadness, grief, guilt and confusion to Harry and Ron after Cedric’s death, she shows a relationship with Cho that we don’t see on the page, but that is clear from those few details she shares. And Harry’s and Ron’s responses show that they never expected such complexity from either Hermione or Cho.

Teen friendships have DRAMA. Emotions are bigger and more unwieldy when you’re a teenager, and most of the situations you face, you’re facing for the very first time. Let the drama out! And that drama can crop up in many different ways – does your character have to sacrifice something for his or her friend? How do your characters earn their relationship? Do they fight for it? Do they risk something – parental or societal disapproval, say – to keep the friendship?

HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: Right at the beginning of the first book, Harry faces a choice between being friends with Draco (and joining ranks with the “right sort” of wizard) and being friends with Ron (the “wrong sort”). He chooses Ron. Later, the two friends together choose to befriend the unloved Hermione. Both times, Harry is risking his social capital for his friends – and that choice continues to create drama that resonates throughout the series.

Friendships, particularly groups of friends, have their own circuitry. How do your characters connect to each other in the world of your story? What are the layers of friendships, from inner circle, to outer ring? What role does each character play?

HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: Harry, Ron and Hermione each have their own specific role to play in their trio. But they’re not an independent entity. They’re also influenced and influence Ginny and Neville and Fred and George and Luna. Their influence also spreads to enemies like Draco. The various connections between the characters come back over and over again throughout the series, and the picture that network forms is complex, dynamic and rich.

Friendship should have an arc throughout the book. Even if the friendship doesn’t supply the main core of conflict in your story, your character’s relationship with friends should still have some sort of beginning, middle and end related to the journey he or she takes in the book.

HARRY POTTER EXAMPLE: While the first book in the series is about Harry learning his true history and facing his greatest enemy for the first time, it is also about his journey from a lonely boy to a boy with friends. His friendships with Ron and Hermione wouldn’t be enough on their own to fuel a book about wizards, but they do give Harry a personal arc to go along with his hero arc, making him much more relatable in the process.

But perhaps the biggest clue that two (or more) characters are friends? Fun! Don’t be afraid to let your characters – even in the darkest and grittiest of dramas – have fun with their friends. That joy is the glue that has kept them together and that shows your reader the depth of your characters’ friendships.

Friendship is one of the most central relationships tweens and teens have. Whether you’re writing a space opera, a modern rom-com, a historical fantasy, or something else entirely, friendships are a great way to zero in on your novel’s heart.

 

 

RICHELLE MORGAN writes, works, plays and drinks too much coffee in Portland, Oregon, often in the company of her husband and their three spirited children. When not writing fiction for young adults and children, she pens fundraising letters and other marketing copy for progressive nonprofit organizations. Richelle keeps an occasional blog about nonprofit marketing and communication. She has also written feature articles for The Oregonian, and her short fiction has appeared in Voicecatcher. You can find her on Twitter.

Path To Publication: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Launch of a Debut Novel with Jennifer Park, author of THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART

Jennifer Parks, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult bookThe Shadows We Know By Heart:
Leah Roberts’s life hasn’t been the same since her brother died ten years ago. Her mother won’t stop drinking, her father can’t let go of his bitter anger, and Leah herself has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatches are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years.

Everything changes when Leah discovers that among the sasquatches lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed.

But when Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

The Shadows We Know By Heart was published last March. We were so excited for Jennifer as she journeyed the path to publication! Now that frenzy of manuscript edits and book signings has slowed, we wanted to talk to Jennifer about the high points and unexpected bumps on her journey. Thanks for joining us, Jennifer!

I clearly remember the post you wrote on The Winged Pen’s private Facebook page when Mandy Hubbard was reading your manuscript and Tweeting about how much she liked it! You were one of the first writers in our group to get an offer of representation.

Jennifer: Yes, that day was definitely the highlight of my publishing journey. Jennifer Park, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult fictionI had only been querying Shadows for a few weeks, and Mandy was the first to request it. That was on a Monday. I reread the book again in a panic, just to make sure I was good with it, and sent it to her on Tuesday. By Thursday, she was tweeting about a book that shouldn’t work but totally did! Friday was a series of tweets about how she loved the book and was emailing the author right now. I was stalking Twitter at the time (because what else would I be doing?), and went straight to my email. I saw her name in the inbox and pretty much died. We talked that night, and by Monday, my book was on sub. 

That’s amazing! But other parts of your path to publication were bumpier. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jennifer: Yes, my pub date was pushed, like so many others are, because my original editor left the imprint, and they felt that if I released in fall of 2016, my book would have been lost in the crowd. That slowed things down quite a bit, but once I got my new editor, signed a contract, and got my edit letter (the week before Christmas!), things began moving quickly again.

What did you learn by working with comments from an editor rather than critique partners?

Jennifer: Well, with critique partners, I think you can sometimes choose what you want to change, based on their opinions and yours, versus an editor, where I changed every single thing she suggested. Granted, if there was something that I didn’t agree with, we would discuss it (and I’m not sure if there was even one thing), but the comments were spot on.

My editor asked tons of questions in her notes, especially about character. If a character did or said something, there needed to be a reason for it, like it needed to be something she could see them doing or saying as a part of their personality. And everything had to have a purpose… it had to forward the plot, or something within the MC.

What will be the follow-up to The Shadows We Know By Heart?

Jennifer: That is a really great question! I thought I knew the answer to that once upon a time. I’ve got a book on sub now and another with my agent waiting for feedback. I’ve got several in various stages of revision and completion to choose from next, but it’s hard to choose and focus when others are still up in the air. I run ideas by my agent as well, just to see what she thinks will be marketable.

Oh! I wanted a career in publishing to be all rainbows and unicorns after your first book makes its splash in the world! But the waiting never ends! If you could travel back in time and talk to your newbie-writer self, what advice would you give based on all you’ve learned?

The truth: this thing only gets harder. Have your dreams, but realize that reality is usually different from your expectations. Publishing is a business, plain and simple. But you’ll get stronger with each rejection, your writing will improve with each critique, and you’ll reach the point where it doesn’t tear you down anymore because you realize you have to write. Period. Because there is no other option. You are a writer. It’s not a job, it’s your life. Don’t write for trends, because they change. Keep trying to find that unique story that only you can tell, and make sure it’s the best version it can be.

Great advice! But now…prepare yourself for the lightning round!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee most of the time.

Hardcover, paperback or eReader?

eReader lately.

Pantser or plotter?

Pantser who is starting to see the wisdom in plotting.

Thanks, Jennifer, for being on blog today! And for readers who’d like to find out more about The Shadows We Know By Heart, you can find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound!

And now, the GIVEAWAY! Jennifer is giving away a signed copy of The Shadows We Know By Heart to one lucky reader! To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below mentioning the book giveaway before Monday January 15th at 4 pm EST. We will draw a name from the Tri-Wizard Cup to select a winner!

Good luck!

Jennifer Park grew up on the bayous of southeast Texas, daydreaming of fantastical worlds amid magnolia trees and Spanish moss. A former middle school art teacher and current Ocean Artist Society member, she now lives tucked within the East Texas pines she loves. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on soy mochas, hoarding chocolate, and managing her herd of one husband, two daughters, numerous dogs, a shamefully large number of garden snails, and one tortoise named Turquoise.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Book Recommendation: A Taxonomy of Love

A Taxonomy of Love is a coming of age novel that spans the teenage years of Spencer and Hope. Rarely, if ever, do we get to see this many years of a character’s life. So many books I’ve read have centered around a single incident or a specific time period. With this novel, I felt as if I’d watched these kids grow up.

The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.
Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful. (NetGalley)

One of the perks of a novel covering so many years is the ability to cover a wide range of topics, then see how they unravel, and what short and long term affects are on each character. The topics in this novel included Tourette syndrome (a neurological disorder), bullying, sibling rivalry, death, multigenerational relationships, young love, first times, and interracial relationships in the south. Whew! That’s a tremendous amount to fit into one story, but Rachael Allen does it seamlessly. The events and characters are woven together just like real life.

The relationships between the characters are what make this story special. They are realistic, not neat and wrapped up in a bow. The kids are faced with hardships and triumphs and it is how they deal with each situation that makes this book so addicting. The voices and characters are so beautifully crafted with strong voices that grow as the kids age, I did not want to let them go.

As an individual with Tourette syndrome, finding a novel with a character living with this disorder was what originally drew me to this book. I was so pleased with Spencer’s character and how Rachael Allen explained and dealt with the issues of his Tourette’s. Again as a novel that spans many years, readers are able to see how this disorder impacts his life at different stages. Like life, this is a disorder that is constantly changing.

You can purchase this book today at AmazonBarnes and Noble, and IndiBound

For more information about author Rachael Allen, you can find her here.

HALLI GOMEZ teaches martial arts and writes for children and young adults because those voices flow through her brain. She enjoys family, outdoors, reading, and is addicted to superhero movies. Her middle grade science fiction novel is represented by Kathy Green of Kathryn Green Literary Agency. You can find Halli on Twitter.

Book Recommendation: THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert, YA book reviewPublisher’s Description

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away–by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began–and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

The Hazel Wood is as dark and creepy as the Grimm fairy tales its main character Alice has spent her childhood reading. The author’s vivid description pulls you first into Alice’s life in New York City and then into the stranger world of Hazel Wood and beyond. Alice’s thirst for the truth about herself and drive to find her mother propel the story forward, and obstacles at every turn and keep the pages turning quickly. I particularly liked the stories within this story–excerpts from her grandmother’s book provide glimpses of the twisted characters and deeds that lie ahead on Alice’s path. The Hazel Wood is a great pick for fans of Stranger Things and Holly Black’s novels.

I requested an advanced reader copy of The Hazel Wood  in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Hazel Woods will be release on January 30th. You can check it out on Goodreads or pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Need more book suggestions? If The Hazel Wood sounds good, you might also like some of the young adult fantasy and science fiction releases I read while judging nominees for the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction award. I wrote short reviews of the best here:

5 Must-Reads from the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Award nominees.
– 5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS YA Spec Fic Award nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees

Rebecca J Allen, CYBILS, YA speculative fictionMy last post shone a spotlight on Five Must-Read books from the CYBILS 2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees. But there was too much awesome to fit in just one post. If you love fantasy, science fiction and magical realism as much as I do, you’ll love these books too!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – In the present day, magic is all but extinct and magicians are trapped in a Manhattan by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that strips them of their powers and often their lives, if they try to leave the city. Magicians are hunted by the Order, the group that created the Brink and is trying to rid the world of magicians. To find out how to defeat the Order and free her kind, Esta must use her unique ability to manipulate time to travel back to 1902 and steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order before it is destroyed, dooming modern-day magicians to a hopeless future. But when the Order closes in, Esta risks losing not only her magic but also her way back to her own time.
I loved the world – early 1900’s plus magic!, the action, and the fight for magic played out through time.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – One of our favorite superheroes gets a new origin story. A ship is bombed just past the border hiding her home, the secret island of the Amazons, from the human world. Diana rescues a survivor, breaking the prohibition against bringing mortals to the island and risking her own exile. The survivor Aila is the Warbringer, a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about a world war. Diana and Aila are determined to keep that from happening. They battle enemies – both mortal and divine – as they try to stem the tide of war. I loved Diana as a female, kickass superhero, intense action scenes, surprising bad guys and the twisty plot.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.
– Amazon
The Sorias are the saints of Bicho Raro, a family who can bring darkness out of the pilgrims that come to them for help. But it takes more than just one miracle for pilgrims to overcome their darkness, and therein lies the challenge. The Sorias are a fascinating cast: a girl without feelings, a pirate radio D.J., and the saint who can perform miracles for everyone but himself. The pilgrims are equally fascinating, each struggling to overcome the surprising symptoms of the thing that haunts them. When a saint is forced to confront his own darkness, his life as well as the lives of his family are all suddenly on the line. I loved the strange and interesting cast of characters, the glimpses of pilgrims wrestling inner demons – struggles anyone can all relate to, and the author’s understated and dry humor .
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Shadowhouse Falls by Daniel Jose Older – *This is Book 2 Shadowshaper series and contains spoilers for Book 1.* Graffiti comes to life,  animated by magic and the spirits of the dead in Shadowshaper, book 1 of the series. Shadowhouse Falls, takes the art-turned-magic up a notch by expanding the magical weapons to chalk drawings – if the bad guys are on your trail and there’s no time to paint – and rap music – if the bad guys arrive while there’s a mic in your hand and a good base guitar backing you up. Will someone please make this series into a movie? Sierra found her powers in Shadowshaper. But with ancient enemies trying to recruit Sierra or take her down if they can’t, and the police keeping a close eye on her and her friends, not the bad guys, the conflict is goes up a notch. Sierra needs to build the strength of her own magic as well as that of her team to meet the forces aligning against them.  I loved the art brought to life to do battle, the vivid portrayal of Sierra’s Brooklyn community and the fiercely loyal group of friends that teams up with the Sierra.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy – Strange gravity fluctuations in space near Earth have NASA searching for new teen members of their Interworlds Agency (IA) program. Candidates are tested not only on advanced math and astrophysics, but also on their reactions to behavioral problems where the “right” solutions are anything but clear. The competition for spots in the program is intense and some candidates are willing to play dirty.

The story follows Rosa, an astrophysics prodigy, and Eddie, a brilliant boy with a troubled past, as they undergo the rigors of the selection process and finally find out why the IA needs new recruits. I loved how these two very different teens approached NASA’s strange tests, the bond that developed between them, and the speculation about types of threats Earth could face in the future.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

I’m still reading CYBILS speculative fiction nominees as speedily as I can and may hope to have one more post of recommendations. But until then, I wish you an magical, inter-galactic, revolutionary, adventure-filled holiday season! May the biggest challenges you face be those on the printed page, and may the tugs on your heart be the most genuine of the real world.

If you missed it, check out my first post on must-read CYBILS YA spec fic nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

5 Must Reads from the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Nominees

One hundred and thirty books were nominated for the 2017 YA Speculative Fiction Award. 130! That’s a lot of books for seven judges to read in three months! As one of those judges, I’m overwhelmed by the volume but even more overwhelmed by the talent!

I still have many books to read and can only mention some I love, not give away clues about which will make the short list. But I believe books make wonderful holiday gifts. For just $50 I can come home with 6-7 presents that will provide hours of enjoyment for family members! Therefore I wanted to shine an early spotlight on a handful of stellar books. So get out your holiday shopping list…you might find some titles here that match up nicely with your loved ones!

They both Dies at the End, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewThey Both Die At the End  by Adam Silvera – Imagine you receive a call telling you you’ll die within the next 24 hours. A call that encourages you to live your last day to the fullest. How would you spend that day?

Two teen boys get this call. They’re strangers but both looking for someone to spend their last day with and meet through the Last Friend app. Their last day is epic, moving, and reminds us of what a gift life is. I loved the premise, the teens’ determination to have one last great adventure, and the boys’ touching relationship.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Strange the Dreamer, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – If you’ve read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (and if you haven’t, you should), this is more of her special brand of awesome. It’s an epic story with mortals and monsters, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. The settings range from a re-imagined Library of Alexandria to a barren desert to a palace floating in the sky. Laslo Strange is has one chance to travel to the lost city of Weep and find out why it was cut off from the rest of civilization 200 years ago. And to learn about the mysterious secret its people now need help solving. I loved the sweeping world-building, the three-dimensional characters, the gorgeous writing and the charged action scenes.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Scythe, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewScythe by Neal Shusterman – Death has been conquered. If someone jumps from a balcony 10 stories high, they can be revived. But to manage the population, men and woman are reaped, and someone needs to do that job. Two teens are chosen as apprentices to master this revered yet heart-wrenching task. Scythe is the story of their experience as they train for their new role, and the evil they discover in the heart of the Scythedom. My 15-year-old son pulled the book I was reading from my hands and told me to read this instead, and he was right. I’d recommend it for all lovers of science fiction action, including reluctant readers. I loved the concept, the fast-paced action and the portrayal of teens facing this impossible job. In January I wrote a full review of Scythe.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

The Edge of Everything, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fictionThe Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles – The book’s gripping start has Zoe searching for her ADHD younger brother who has run off in the middle of a blizzard. The action and tension only rise from there. No sooner does Zoe find her brother and shelter from the frigid temperatures when they’re attacked by the man who murdered their aged neighbors. They’re saved by a stranger with mysterious powers, the bounty hunter sent to capture the murderer. At Zoe’s request, bounty hunter shows the attacker mercy and lets him go. This sets off a chain of events that drive the rest of the story. The bounty hunter, who Zoe calls X, and Zoe are drawn to each other, but his masters in The Lowlands, a version of Hell, want the soul X was sent to reap. They also want X back in his desolate cell. I loved Edge of Everything for its non-stop action and compelling set of characters. In January I wrote a full review of Edge of Everything.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Nyxia, CYBILS, YA speculative fiction, YA booksNyxia by Scott Reintgen – Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Emmett’s been recruited for a spot on a star ship heading to the far side of the galaxy to mine Nyxia, a rare and priceless substance, for the Babel corporation. Emmett finds out once aboard that there aren’t spots on the team for all recruits. A competition will determine who will be the lucrative contracts. Babel Corporation is also keeping secrets. Emmett is forced to ask himself what he’s willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune. In July I wrote a full review of Nyxia.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

But wait there’s more! There are so many awesome YA spec fic CYBILS nominees that I couldn’t fit them all in one post. See 5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction nominees for some more awesome books! For a broader range of book recommendations across genres and middle grade as well as young adult, see Halli Gomez’s post Holiday Gift Ideas – The Winged Pen’s Favorite Books!

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Holiday Gift Ideas: The Winged Pen’s Favorite Books

Halloween is over. Thanksgiving is in ten days. That means the gift-giving season is right around the corner! For most of us, it’s panic time. But the Pennies at The Winged Pen are going to make this holiday season easier for you. Below are some of our favorite books. They are great choices for the readers in your life (including yourself!)

Gita 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie Anderson This fast-paced thriller, set in Kenya and Congo, follows Congolese refugee Tina, who joins a street gang in order to avenge her mother’s murder. I loved the deftly drawn characters, the high stakes, the nail-biting tension, and the window the author opened onto this part of the world. She spent a decade working for NGOs in Africa. (YA)

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy This novel is so many things at once: a heart-breaking family saga; a story of a childhood spent in Kerala, India; a political awakening; a commentary on India’s caste system, its mythology, and history—as well as a fantastically beautiful meditation on the nature of time itself. John Updike said of it, “A novel of real ambition must invent its own language, and this one does.” (Adult, 16+)

Laurel

The Inquisitor’s Tale (or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog) by Adam Gidwitz Three children race through France in the middle ages to the final showdown at Mont-Saint-Michel where all question if the children can perform the miracles of saints. This warm, funny, heartbreaking, and inspiring story of adventure effortlessly brings the middle ages to life. The dialogue made me laugh out loud. Adam Gidwitz makes thought-provoking topics like miracles, racism, antisemitism, and Chaucer amazingly accessible. (MG)

Texting the Underworld by Ellen Booream Conor O’Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee, a harbinger of death shows up in his bedroom. The banshee insists on going to middle school and as Conor attempts to hide her identity and keep his family safe, he realizes he’s going to have to visit to the underworld. It is a zany story of a boy whose normal, middle school life gets a mixed-up shot of Greek and Irish mythology that makes him into the hero he never thought he could be. It is a laugh-out-loud excellent adventure story for reluctant readers. (YA)

Kate

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown An American history story of the wagon train journey west by Mary Ann Graves, her family, and the Donner and Reed parties. Amid the pain of loss and the constant threat of death from starvation or cold, Mary Ann’s narrative, told in verse, is of a girl learning what it means to be part of a family, to make sacrifices for those we love, and above all to persevere. This book blew me away with its gorgeous language. I was riveted from page one, and Brown handles the difficult subject unflinchingly, but without veering into the grotesque.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman Thrilling adventures of Lyra and Will, two ordinary children on a perilous journey through shimmering haunted otherworlds, where they meet witches and armored bears, fallen angels and soul-eating specters. And in the end, the fate of both the living—and the dead—will rely on them. I listened to the full-cast audio recording of these, which was so well done. I loved the epic scope of it, the interrogation of religion, and the stunning imagination of it.

Richelle

Homegoing by Yaa Gayasi This is a breath-taking novel built from a series of interlocking stories about the descendants of two Ghanian sisters — one sold into slavery and one raised free in Ghana. It was one of those reading experiences that made me feel changed when I put it down. (Adult)

You May Already Be A Winner by Ann Dee Ellis I loved this compassionate and hope-filled look at a child trapped in poverty. The main character’s fantasies of winning contests reminded me so vividly of the feeling of being a kid powerless to fix what’s wrong, but desperate to find a way to do it anyway. (MG)

Julie

Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill Xan, the witch from the Forest, accidently feeds baby Luna moonlight, filling her with extraordinary magic. As Luna’s magic begins to emerge–with dangerous consequences–a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Luna must protect those who have protected her — even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known. This was one of those books I read slowly at the end to make it last longer. Barnhill’s world building is amazing and her storytelling shines in this magical tale. It is a 2017 Newbery Medal winner and NY Times bestseller. (MG) Check out our interview with Kelly Barnhill here.

Girl From Everywhere/Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig If there is a map, Nix’s father, a time traveler, can sail his ship across the globe and through centuries. But now that he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix’s mother died in childbirth—Nix’s life, her entire existence, is at stake. If her father changes the past, it could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures, and her connection with the charming Persian thief. These two gorgeous historical fantasies are full of heart and magic. I flew threw them and can’t wait for the third. The first of two books, blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility. Its sparkling wit, breathless adventure, multicultural cast, and enchanting romance will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo. (YA)

Halli

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via a red balloon to 1988 East Berlin and meets an underground group who uses these magic balloons to help people escape over the Wall. As they try to get Ellie back to her time, it becomes clear someone is using dark magic to change history. There are so many wonderful things about this book. The stories of survival and dedication of those willing to help people trapped in dangerous and oppressive conditions are heartwarming. The characters are well developed with strengths, weaknesses, and strong motivations. You can’t help but root for them all, and even those with questionable methods have commendable goals. (YA)

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry Calliope June has Tourette syndrome and makes faces or noises that she doesn’t mean to make. When she moves to a new school, she tries to hide her TS, but the kids laugh and tease her. Only Calliope’s neighbor, the popular student body president, sees her as she truly is—an interesting person and a good friend. But is he brave enough to take their friendship public?  This is a beautifully written story of fitting in and finding courage. It is a dual point of view story told in verse and prose. This was my first time reading a story told in both formats and I loved it! The author’s writing is amazing, especially her descriptions of emotions that utilize all the senses. Readers of any age will love this book of growth and acceptance. They will also have the ability to learn about a misunderstood disorder and realize how a little knowledge can result in a new friend. (MG)

Michelle

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder Nine children live alone on an isolated island with no memories of their past. Every year, a mysterious green boat appears bringing a new young child to the island and sailing the eldest away. With vivid characters that feel like our dearest friends and a lushly detailed setting, this heartfelt story beautifully captures the emotional ups and downs of saying goodbye to childhood and moving toward adolescence. For ages 8+, this book is on the 2017 National Book Award Longlist. (MG)

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez Julia isn’t the perfect daughter. That was her obedient sister Olga, who got run over by a semi. Julia wants to go to college to become a writer instead of living in agony, both grief stricken by her sister’s death and stuck with her undocumented and unbearably old-fashioned parents. A stunning and beautifully relatable story about family, cultural expectations, growing up, and mental illness. A Finalist for the National Book Award. Due to mature themes, I recommend this one to 15+.

Rebecca J. Allen

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor If you’ve read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (if you haven’t, you should), this is more of the same type of awesome. There are mortals and monsters; sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. The setting ranges from a re-imagined Library of Alexandria to barren deserts to a palace floating in the sky. Fully crafted characters and charged actions scenes, as well as the author’s lush writing, make it a book to read and reread. This is the first book in a duology. (YA)

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab is the third and final installment in Schwab’s Shades of Magic Series. The Darker Shades series is set in four Londons. Red London, bright with magic; White London, starved of magic and desperate for it; Gray London, magicless; and Black London, dead, overrun by dark magic and cut off to protect the other Londons. The dangerous magic of Black London escapes the barriers and is drawn feed on the rich magical of Red London. There, Kell, prince and Antari, must battle to protect his home from the danger he inadvertently unleashed. At his side are Lyla, a thief; Alucard Emory a pirate; Rys, first in line for the throne; and his enemy from Gray London. It is action-packed with rich characters and world-building. (YA)

Rebecca Petruck

Peak by Anders Ericsson After studying chess champions, violin virtuosos, star athletes, and memory mavens, the author provides powerful learning strategies that are fundamentally different from the way people traditionally think about acquiring new abilities. This book inspires me with the reminder that “genius” likely doesn’t exist. Nearly anyone can become very good, even expert, at a variety of skills with deliberate practice.

Dear Ijeawele, a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie The author received a letter from a friend asking her how to raise her baby girl as a feminist. This book, fifteen invaluable suggestions, is the author’s response on how to empower a daughter to become a strong, independent woman. This book not only inspires me, but also fills me with hope for girls and young women today. It’s a book I wish all women and men would read.

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman Meticulously researched, drawing on the 658 letters Vincent wrote to his brother, Theo, during his lifetime, the author weaves a tale of two lives intertwined and the extraordinary love of the Van Gogh brothers. This book inspires me because Vincent Van Gogh worked and worked and worked at his art, and it all could have been fruitless but for the faith and support of his brother Theo. I’m so grateful for the support I have from my family and friends. These are the books I think about when I’m feeling low and questioning choices I’ve made about my work. I hope they encourage other readers, too!

There are so many great books, we couldn’t pick just one favorite. Or two. Below is a list of more books we love.

 

Picture Books

Windows by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale

Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

Baabwaa and Wooliam: A Tale of Literacy, Dental Hygiene, and Friendship by David Elliott, illus. by Melissa Sweet

Middle Grade

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

It All Comes Down to This by Karen English

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

Patina by Jason Reynolds

This is Our Constitution by Khizr Khan

OCDaniel by Wesley King

Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan

Young Adult

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Steifvater

These books can be found at your local independent bookstores, along with Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

More information on the loves and preferences of The Winged Pen writers, check them out on the Bio Page.

 

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November Four on 400 Contest Window is Now Open!

Q: What is Four on 400? 

A monthly contest that provides ONE LUCKY MG or YA WRITER with feedback on their opening 400 WORDS! As part of our ongoing mission to support writers, we’ll give a MG or YA writer feedback on their work from four of The Winged Pen’s contributors.

Q: Sounds exciting! How do I enter?

To enter, simply comment at the bottom of this post! At 4pm (EST) on the 5th of November, one winner will be randomly drawn from the Triwizard Cup. The winner will be notified and given 24 hours to submit his or her opening 400 WORDS. On the 14th of the month, the winner’s words, along with the title and genre of the work, will be posted to our blog with feedback from four of our members. Still have questions? See our Four on 400 page for additional details.

If you’re not sure how to leave a comment, check our FAQ page!

*Please check your email SPAM filter to make sure it will allow an email from info@thewingedpen.com

Want a chance to win an extra entry? Go to our Facebook page and find our post about the November Four on 400 contest. Then like and/or share our post. While you’re there, like our Facebook page if you haven’t already!

Remember, the contest window is only open until 4pm EST on November 5th, so don’t wait––enter now! Good Luck!

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Books That Scared the Bejeesus out of Us

Though I relish everything having to do with ghosts and monsters, I’m also the person who levitates off the sofa during every single jump scare in “Stranger Things,” much to the amusement of my son. Today is Halloween, a time when, it’s said, the veil between the living and the dead grows thin, and we’re allowed both to scare and be scared. It got me thinking about how it felt to be frightened as a child—in particular, to be frightened by a book. It was both terrifying and exhilarating, members of The Winged Pen remembered when I asked them : As a child, what book scared the bejeesus out of you?

Jessica: There’s A Monster at the End of this Book scared the pants off of me every single reading! It was my favorite book when I was a little. It was definitely the anticipation, and the lunacy of it—why on earth would anyone continue turning the pages when we KNEW FOR SURE that there was going to be a monster?!! (But I turned the pages anyway!) There was something deliciously naughty about it…turning each page when we were specifically being told not to. It was empowering. How often do kids get to disobey without consequences?

Kate: I’m too much of a wimp to read truly scary stories, but when I was a kid, my mom read me Little Women, and for some reason, I didn’t catch that Beth had died. I was horrified when my mom explained it to me. I couldn’t believe they killed off a kid! Next she tried to read me A Wrinkle in Time. I heard that first line (“It was a dark and stormy night”) and flat refused to hear anything more. I had had enough trauma.

Rebecca Petruck: I didn’t read a lot of children’s book as a kid–I waited until I was a grown up to do that!  There’s a character in The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly who is a hunter, but she’s so proficient that hunting—her passion—has become dull. So she learns how to put human heads on different animal bodies, to make the hunt more equal (in her mind). The way it’s written, the cutting and the person’s awareness of what’s being done, is done to them…gives me the shivers even now!

Karin: Flowers in the Attic! I’ll never forget this book. A mother imprisons her four children in the attic of her parents’ house where they are physically and mentally abused by their grandmother. Their mom even sprinkles donuts with rat poison to try and kill them, so that she can get her inheritance, which stipulated that she have no children. Scary. The older brother and sister fall in love. At one point he even rapes her, but then apologizes. (Several Pennies were shocked at how readily available to kids this book was—and how eagerly we read it.)

Julie: My mom had an older book of fairy tales that were more on the dark side than the Disney versions—the wicked stepmother’s repeated gory attempts to kill Snow White, Cinderella’s stepmother butchering the stepsisters’ feet at the end of the story, a really terrifying version of Rumplestiltskin, and some really creepy brownies all come to mind. The White Witch from Narnia was pretty scary, too.

Rebecca Allen: I was scared by The Hobbit, in particular the scene where Bilbo and the dwarves are in Mirkwood. Spiders capture the dwarves, wrap them in cocoons, and leave them dangling from the trees. One pokes the dwarves to see if they’re ready to eat. Eek! Thank goodness Bilbo and the ring save the day, until…

Richelle: The original Snow Queen with her shard of ice really horrified me as a kid. And pretty much anything with a ghost in it—I’m still terrified by ghost stories!

Gabrielle: I very clearly remember a nap time when I was afraid of monsters. Then I decided that if monsters were real, then so were the Super Friends, so either way, I’d be okay!

Kristi: Mine is really, really silly. You know those I Can Read books? There’s a scary collection. There was a story about a girl with a green ribbon!! Ahhh! I already had a fear of my head falling off—I blame Shel Silverstein for that—so the idea that a ribbon was keeping her head on made me fall asleep with my hands on top of my head just to be sure it didn’t roll off…

And mine? One of my grade-school friends had a copy of Der Struwwelpeter (in hindsight, it probably belonged to her parents), the cover of which is featured at the top of this post. It’s a nineteenth-century book of moral stories designed to scare children into obeying their parents. The cover terrified me—why were the boy’s nails so freaking long?—and the one time I made the mistake of opening the book I happened on an illustration of a man scissoring off a boy’s thumb because he refused to stop sucking it. Done! I slammed it shut, put another book on top of it, and never looked at it again.

What children’s book gave you the shivers?

 

GITA TRELEASE writes YA fantasy. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. And wigs. She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

 

 

 

 

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Daughter 4254: A New Dystopian Series about fighting for the arts #D4254


The soon-to-be-released futuristic dystopian young adult novel Daughter 4254 started out as an ebook on Wattpad that received over         ******1 million******   views. Impressed by the attention it had received, the publishers at Owl Hollow Press invited Leigh Statham to publish Daughter 4254 as a series of novels. The original story has been revised and enhanced, and the first novel in the trilogy releases on November 7th!

Goodreads | Amazon | Kindle | iBooks   Coming soon to Barnes and Noble and Indiebound!

 

Daughter4254 used to think life in a community where art, music, and names are outlawed would suffocate her creative spirit—until she is left to rot in prison and realizes there is far worse.

When she meets Thomas, a fellow inmate, who tells stories of the mythical mountain colonies where people have names and the arts thrive, she finds a shred of hope. Together they plot an escape, knowing they’ll die if they fail. Or worse, their consciousness will be taken by the MindWipe, leaving their bodies free for government use.

When nothing goes as planned, Daughter4254 must choose between using her mother’s secrets of the rebellion to better the world she hates and following her heart to the quiet life of freedom she has always craved.

We are thrilled to talk with young adult author Leigh Statham about Daughter4254 and her Wattpad success.

Hi Leigh! Welcome to The Winged Pen! Tell us about the inspiration for Daughter4254.

Leigh:  My inspiration came from a lot of different sources. I’m a big fan of classic dystopian literature, especially Fahrenheit 451, and Chinese history. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was a period when the government, or more specifically Mao Zedong, decided that all art should “serve the people” which quickly translated into “serve the state.” Many great artists were ridiculed and great works of art and literature were gathered and destroyed. It’s a crushing story and one that China openly regrets now.

As a creative person, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have your life’s work be illegal. Fast forward to American culture today, with the educational budget cuts that force public schools in the poorest areas to cut funding for the arts at all levels of childhood development, and we’ve got a quieter yet equally nefarious situation on our hands. I think it’s important to express how important the arts are not only to our children but to humans in general. Daughter 4254 takes place in a futurist society where artistic expression is illegal. 

What the plans are for the series?

I never planned on writing a series. I love how Lowry ends The Giver, and I know she didn’t plan on writing more books after that one, but I had so many amazing kids asking for more when I posted the book on Wattpad. I decided to go ahead and see where Daughter 4254 might take me. Writing the second book was a really fun process. I got a lot of input from readers and wrote and published it serially on Wattpad. You just don’t find that kind of interaction anywhere else as a writer. Yes, the results are pretty rough around the edges, no final edits, just writing, quick edits, then posts with comments from readers. The good news is that the series is now in the capable hands of the editing team at Owl Hollow Press, so the final product will be a shining star.

So let’s talk about Wattpad a bit. First off, why did you choose to first post this novel there?

When I first finished the novel, I was querying on the heels of The Hunger Games and Divergent mania. The market was overloaded with dystopian books. A friend told me about this “cool new” website I should try out. I’m a pretty big risk taker, so I threw it up there to see what would happen and worked on another book.

Over 1 million views! That blows my mind. Why you think it was so popular?

I got a lot of views because I participated in the community. I would read for people who asked me to. I would leave comments and return compliments. I answered every email I got for several years. Finally, someone nominated my book to be “featured.” This means Wattpad puts it on the front page and anyone bored and surfing for something new to read will see it and hopefully get sucked in. A year or so later, it was nominated for the Wattpad top ten dystopian novels in conjunction with the release of the Insurgent movie and then it made the Wattpad top ten list when The Fifth Wave movie came out. Wattpad is big on book/movie crossovers and even has its own studios now. They surf the books there, looking for screenplay potential. Anyway, the rest is history. My reads, votes, and followers skyrocketed. I’m having a hard time keeping up with requests and replies, but I’m still working on it. Wattpad readers, please don’t give up on me! 

Any words of wisdom for authors who might want to try using Wattpad?

Jump in with both feet! It’s mostly an adult and YA audience. Romance does great there. Most of all, be a part of the community. That’s what it’s all about. Some people think you post a book there and if it’s good enough it will get noticed. Not so. You have to participate. Go make friends. Get out of your writerly cave and interact. Scary, I know, but you can do it!

Very interesting, Leigh! Buckle up for the lightning round! *Hands Leigh a piece of cheesecake, made by her lovely 11-year-old baking-master daughter.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? I would love to be able to talk to animals, or maybe be invisible, but I’d have to be able to take my clothes with me. None of this running around naked nonsense! 

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wood

Coffee or tea? Herbal tea

Sweet or salty?  Both!

Dog, cat, or other? All the above, plus chickens

Plotter or pantser? Pantser, although I’m getting to be more of a plotter every day.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? Read everything. Write often. Be kind. Go out and support a creative person today! Even if that creative person is just yourself— it’s important to nurture and grow our talents. Our future is in our hands.

Thank you so much, Leigh, for taking the time to talk to us. And best wishes for Daughter 4254 and the next books in the series!

This was fantastic! Thank you, Michelle!!

Leigh Statham was raised in the wilds of rural Idaho, but found her heart in New York City. She worked at many interesting jobs before settling in as a mother and writer.

She now resides in North Carolina with her husband, four children, five chickens, and two suspected serial killer cats.

Leigh is currently working on an MFA, has written countless short stories, and is the author of two published novels: The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl and The Perilous Journey of the Much-Too-Spontaneous Girl. She is also the winner of the 2016 Southeast Review Nonfiction Prize for her short story “The Ditch Bank and the Fenceline.”

Facebook  |   Twitter    |    Website    |     Wattpad

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, an Indie children/teens bookseller, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT , about a teen girl who uses technology to fight racism, is in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME. Proceeds from the anthology go towards scholarships for the Society of Women Engineers! Connect with Michelle on Twitter.

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