The Long Ride Home

Maybe it is because I’m a high school teacher and spend my days surrounded by actual young adults that my standards for YA literature are so high. My favorite books for readers in their teens are full of characters facing real life problems with no clear solutions. The dialogue needs to sound like something an actual kid would say, or else I’m gone. No messages, please. No lessons to learn that could also be imparted in a thirty minute sitcom. No morals to the story allowed. Ever. If I’m going to recommend a book to anyone to read it has…

Rereading Season

It was actually not a million degrees today. Perhaps fall has decided to blow in after all. For me, fall is the season for rereading novels I’ve loved. For a lady whose To Be Read pile is as tall as mine, it may seem like I don’t have time to go over old territory. But I can’t resist. Besides, as a writer these novels (among  so many others) have specific lessons to teach me that are refreshed as I reread. Here are a few of my frequent rereads as the days grow shorter: White Oleander and Paint it Black by…

I Heart YA

I decided this year to make my students read books for fun. If they aren’t having fun reading their books then I instruct them to pretend they are having fun so effectively that I am unable to tell the difference. In discussion about their books, one student admitted that the YA novel she’d brought was so poorly written it was getting in the way of her fun. She read the first two sentences aloud. Total clunkers. We had to agree that the writing was no fun. We couldn’t even pretend it was fun. Yet some of my favorite writing occurs in the YA novels I…

You Write What’s Real: The Secret Lives of Young Adults

Last December I visited an English class at a continuation high school. The students had read and discussed  my YA novel HOW TO BE MANLY  (Giant Squid Books) and the plan was for me to give a talk and answer their questions. I came bearing a big pink box of donuts (if you read the book you’ll know why). As I put a donut on every desk, one girl jumped from her seat, unable to wait for my presentation to begin to share her thoughts. “I like you,” she said. “Because you write what’s real.”  Her classmates nodded in agreement, glad that she broke…

Notebooks

On the way to the gym this morning, I heard this story on NPR  in which Eric Weiner reported that Moleskine’s business is booming, and research shows that  all the cool kids write in notebooks now. I was fascinated but also horrified by this story. Listening to an interview with a guy who revealed that he wrote in notebooks like it was a new idea made me feel  sort of the way I did when the lady who wrote Freedom Writers came to town and everyone at the school where I worked got very excited about her revolutionary teaching technique of having her students write in journals.  My…