Monday, May 20, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Children's Book Week
Middle Grade/Young Adult Author Panel Discussion
Tattered Cover Bookstore (Denver)
Thursday, May 16, 7:00 pm
| Colfax Avenue:
The Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers
& Illustrators joins us in hosting a panel discussion and signing
with five local authors. Our panelists include Darby Karchut, author of the middle grade fantasy Finn Finnegan ($9.95 Spencer Hill Press); Jeannie Mobley, author of the middle grade historical novel Katerina’s Wish ($15.99 Margaret K. McElderry Books); Emily Hainsworth, author of the magical young adult novel Through to You ($17.99 Balzer & Bray); Donna Cooner, author of the powerful young adult novel Skinny ($17.99 Scholastic); and Phyllis J. Perry, author of Bold Women in Colorado History ($12.00 Mountain Press), a collection of biographies for middle grade readers.|
Guests at this event can enter to win some great prizes!
Friday, May 3, 2013
Last week, I asked some of my 7th grade students if I could post their thoughts about Finn Finnegan. I explained to them that, for privacy issues, I would not use their full names. One of the boys asked if he could make up up a title to go with his name. I told him to go for it. As you would guess, the other students jumped on that idea right away.
Frankly, I found their titles more fun to read than the blurbs!
“Exciting to read and impossible to put down.”
- Seth M. (13 years old), aka The Great and Powerful Ultimate Dictator of Our Good Earth and the True Meaning of Awesomeness
“Finn Finnegan was so good, I went through a whole box of strawberry Pop-tarts. There were 24 Pop-tarts in there just to be specific. After reading the book, if I saw a crow, then I would have to check my surroundings. To me, it’s one of the best books I have ever read. These are only some of the reasons why you should read it, and Mrs. Karchut’s Griffin series is just as good.”
- Elijah S. (13 years old), aka The Lord of All Pop-tarts and Waffles.
Monday, April 22, 2013
A special treat today! Not only do I get to talk about one of my favorite books, Dear Life, You Suck, but Scott Blagden is visiting today. I know. How did I get so lucky! He was kind enough (because he just rocks that way) to answer some questions about writing. First, here's the blurb:
Now, on to the questions! *thunderous applause*
1. Scott, if you couldn’t be a writer, what else would you be?
Tough question. Since I have no other artistic talents, I’d probably just sit around the house reading great books and wallowing in self-pity.
2. How long did it take you to write Dear Life, You Suck? What was the most fun part to write?
I spent about 18 months writing it and another 6 months in revisions with my editor. The most fun part was the main character, Cricket. I never knew what was going to come out of his mouth.
3. Do you have a schedule of when you write?
I prefer to write in the morning when my brain is the freshest and then during the day if I can find the time. I’m not a night writer. My brain is usually fried by 5-6 pm.
4. How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
I’m self-employed in real estate so I have a fairly flexible schedule so that helps. Like all writers, I write whenever I can find the time. I enjoy writing, so I don’t have to force myself into a rigid routine because whenever I have free time, I fire up my laptop and write. I can write anywhere. At home, in my car, at coffee shops.
5. Do you have a favorite character?
In my book, Cricket’s my favorite character. He’s just so raw, flawed, ugly and beautiful. So human.
6. No doubt, Cricket is mine, too. So, what was your road to publication like?
It was long and bumpy. With numerous detours. And no map. Since I’ve never been published before and have no academic credentials or publishing/writer connections, I just merged onto Cold Query Boulevard along with the zillion other unpublished authors in the world. Dear Life, You Suck was my fourth novel, and I queried approximately 300-400 agents and publishers per manuscript, which resulted in a great deal of rejection. Fortunately, rejection doesn’t deter me. It strengthens my resolve. I’m really stubborn. I don’t like being told “no.” I caught a break when I broke the rules and queried a closed house with a funny letter from Cricket. Fortunately, the editorial director had a sense of humor and passed the letter along to an associate editor who requested the manuscript. That editor’s feedback helped me get the manuscript into the version that ultimately got picked up by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
7. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing and book promotion? Do you actually have any free time outside of writing and book promotion?
Not much, unfortunately. I’m kind of a hermit (that’s what my neighbor calls me). I like to just hang around the house and read or watch movies. I live on a saltwater bay so in the summer I like to spend time on the water when I can.
8. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Writing is hard. Real writers know you can’t sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. I love that Jack London quote - “You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” With that in mind, I do three things every day:
I write every day. Everyone says this, but it's true. The most important thing to do is to write every day. The more you write, the better you get at writing. And don't give up when a story bogs down or you get overwhelmed or confused. There is no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block is an excuse to be lazy or give up. I hit “blocks” every day. The only way to get unblocked is to work through the problem. You can’t sit on the couch with a bag of Cheetos watching soap operas until the “block” goes away. You have to write your way through it.
I read in my genre every day. When I decided to write young adult, I created a database of all the award-winning young adult novels that have been written over the last thirty years and started working my way through the list. My goal has always been to write quality, character-driven fiction, so that’s what I read.
I study the craft. I read books about writing and attend seminars and workshops run by published authors. There’s a pretty awesome community of writers out there who run lectures and workshops on the craft of writing. When I have a long drive, I listen to audiobooks on writing. I listen to Ayn Rand’s The Art of Fiction often.
9. What is your favorite book? Favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I don’t have one favorite author. There are so many I admire. When it comes to edgy YA, Adam Rapp has been an inspiration/influence.
My current manuscript is about a 17-year-old high school track star with a bright future, college scholarship, etc., who suddenly finds himself raising his 6-month-old baby girl on his own.
Thank you, Scott, for taking time out to visit us today!
About the Author:
Scott Blagden grew up in Foxborough, Massachusetts (Go Patriots!), the middle child of a five-child Brady Bunch fiasco. He moved to Cape Cod twenty years ago to get on the ocean. He has been writing since middle school and never imagined it would take forty years to get published. Life’s road is riddled with unpredictable detours.
Scott is mostly self-taught, his college career cut short by a practical joke gone bad. During his junior year, his first job as an English department Work Study intern was to type a professor’s syllabus into the computer. As a joke, Scott added an additional deadline date: Last date to submit cash compensation to professor for final grade alteration. The syllabus was not proofread by the staff before being printed and distributed to hundreds of students. Teachers, parents, and the president of the college did not appreciate the humor, and Scott was given the proverbial boot. Since then, he has been self-employed in real estate.
Scott enjoys writing for young adults and is especially interested in exploring the motives and manifestations of troubled teens. As they say, write what you know!
His academic interests include philosophy, history, and religion, and those themes infuse his fiction. He enjoys cooking, boating, and being a dad to his teenage twins.
I've been waiting a long time for this book (and doesn't the title just scream YA-angst! Love. It.) Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden did not disappoint me. The voice is everything in this book. It is Cricket's word choice that really shows the depth of this teen character. This is a kid that has so much wrong with him, but has so much "right" with him. Without giving away the plot, I must agree with a lot of other people that the ending knocked my socks off.
Yes, the slang terms and use of alliteration were a wee bit over the top, but it is so much a part of the book, I don't see how Blagden could have written it any different. It would have been a weaker book in my opinion.
Now, I must admit I rarely read contemporary YA fiction (I'm a bit more middle grade fantasy aficionado), but this one is such a winner, that I am putting it on my favorite's list. I highly recommend this book to all older teens, especially boys. High schools should be buying this one for their libraries right now. Brilliant!
Bravo to Scott Blagden on his debut novel. I am eager to read whatever else this author writes. (That's a hint, Scott. Get cracking on the next one!)
And boo, Patriots! Go Broncos!
Purchase a copy here: