Want to win this fun prize pack? Participate in our #AWTeen Twitter chat on Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. CDT!
Have you ever wondered what being an author is really like? Do you have a burning question about our young adult novels?
On Tuesday, September 12 at 8 p.m. CDT, you will have a chance to ask ten of our authors questions during our Fall ’17 #AWTeen Twitter chat, moderated by Stacey from Page Turners! One participant will be randomly selected to win a set of AW Teen novels along with a special prize pack!
One participant will be randomly selected to receive our two brand-new young adult historical fiction novels along with a prize pack, which includes a candle, phone case, speakers, lights, nail polish, and more!
My most vivid Halloween memories are about making—never buying—my costume each year. My three sisters and I would compete to see who came up with the most creative idea. My mom was very talented at crafts and sewing, and she supervised in the early years. I remember one truly fantastic papier maché mouse head my mother made for my youngest sister.
As an adult, I continued the homemade costume tradition. Here’s a photo of my first attempt, definitely not up to my mom’s high standards. My then two-year-old daughter was supposed to be a bunny rabbit. Clearly an alien species of rabbit; I had some trouble with the head and ears. (I did get better as the years went by!) Welcoming neighborhood trick-or-treaters is still one of the high points of my year, and I keep an extra candy bar for anyone with a homemade costume.
Dressing up for Halloween was, and still is, my favorite part of the holiday. One year in particular I was so excited to get one of those prepackaged Barbie costumes (nothing like today’s costumes, mind you.) This beauty consisted of a terribly scratchy mask and a preprinted sheathlike plastic ball gown that made me feel—and smell—like a crayon. Needless to say my dream costume quickly became my most loathed costume. But that has never stopped me from dressing up. Instead, I became more creative and designed most of the costumes for my children and myself. Over the years the costumes have consisted of a Football Powder Puff, Shark Boy and Lava Girl, Thomas the Train, Batman’s Poison Ivy and my most recent and favorite, I dressed up as VMA’s Miley Cyrus. The more bizarre the costume, the better, I say. –Dana Elmendorf, author of South of Sunshine (publishing April 2016)
Sam and David wanted to be vampires. Thank goodness for Halloween, I thought as we drove from California to our new home in Texas with Sam, 6, David, 4 and Josh, 1 in the back seats. To distract the boys from everything we were leaving behind, we talked about how quickly we could make the look happen when we arrived the morning of Oct. 31. (Josh’s main contribution was to spit up, which meant he was going to inherit the old pumpkin sleeper that had been worn by his brothers.) We dropped off our things at our new apartment and hit the ground running, seeking capes, white make-up and plastic pumpkins for candy. Over dinner, I read their new favorite book, Matt Novak’s Pete and Ghost, about a boy who finds a friendly ghost in his new house. And then, trick or treat! They ran from decorated house to house, gathering treats and, even better, smiles from the new kids that would become their best friends.
–Nancy Churnin, author of The William Hoy Story (publishing March 2016)
Is my son a zombie? It is possible. Here are the top five reasons why I think he might be: 5) He answers questions with a blank stare; 4) He’s good with directions. Have you noticed zombies always know which way to go? 3) My son played baseball as a kid and now works for a baseball team. Zombies never give up either; 2) He has lots of friends – zombies hate to be alone; and number 1) My son likes ripped shirts and old pants. If that doesn’t scream zombie – what does? So as another Halloween approaches, I’ll be thinking of my wonderful zombie and all the fun we used to have.
The idea for Are You Still There originated after being on a school campus during a lock down. Teachers are instructed to lock their classroom doors and not open them to anyone. Of course that’s logical, because in the case of an active shooter, a teacher could unwittingly let the shooter into their classroom. But I couldn’t stop thinking about what could happen to the kids who happened to be out of class when the lockdown was initiated. When I was a student, we didn’t have lock downs at school, but I could instantaneously put myself in my own teenage shoes, and envision myself stuck in a bathroom during a lockdown.
The idea moved very quickly from there. I, like so many others, am saddened and frightened by the number of acts of school violence. I read an article in the Washington Post that indicated there are now more mass shootings in the U.S. than days in a year. It boggles my mind that we have not yet found better solutions for these problems.
In college, I was on a real crisis helpline. It was the best experience throughout my college years. Helping other people gave my own life a purpose, and the alliances formed with my fellow listeners were like gold. I finally felt at home.
While writing this book, I was essentially trying to climb into my character Stranger’s brain. What a sad, lonely, and angry place to be. Spending a lot of time there led me to a lightbulb moment. It surrounds what I’ll call the Four P’s: Problems, Pain, Perspective and Permanency.
Problems: We all have problems. We don’t always know other people have them, because some people hide them better than others. And some people don’t talk about them. But we’ve all got them.
Pain: We all experience pain. And it sucks. Emotional pain can be overwhelming.
Perspective: Over time, our perspective changes. This happens to everyone. Things that seemed important or particularly painful at one point in our lives fade over time. They may still be painful, but not as painful. Sometimes we see that the pain sparked personal growth.
Permanency: Some choices in life are permanent. If you ever make a permanent decision when you’re highly emotional and in significant pain, then you can’t benefit from the perspective you’ll gain over your life. Example—violent or self-harming acts. Any time young people choose a violent act as a solution to a problem, they’ve forgotten that their perspective will change over time. They’ve forgotten that their emotional pain will lessen in intensity. I wonder how many violent acts could have been avoided if people could press “pause” in their lives and fast forward five years to see if they’d still care.
When author Jandy Nelson’s 2010 novel The Sky is Everywhere was optioned for film by Warner Brothers in late August, I let out a little “whoop!” The book is amazing, but more importantly, it launched my love of reading contemporary YA literature and inspired me to write my debut novel, Burn Girl.
Ever since her stepdad’s meth lab explosion, Arlie has avoided the stares from strangers and questions about her face. But can she stay hidden forever?
While I’ve thoroughly enjoyed fantasy, paranormal and dystopian YA series (you know which ones I’m talking about), I am especially drawn to stand-alone contemporary YA novels. There are a number of extraordinary writers tackling once-taboo subjects like death, physical and emotional abuse, sexual assault, drug abuse, bullying, gender identity and more. The prose is sometimes described as dark or gritty, although I think those labels are inadequate attempts to say that these books I love to read deal with real life.
I’m a huge fan of author Courtney Summers. Her latest book, All the Rage, addresses rape culture, class prejudice, and bullying, and has been called unflinching, powerful, brutal and heartbreaking. To me, that’s a good sign she’s hit a nerve with readers and is shedding light on subjects we’ve been reluctant to talk about in the past.
I believe that YA literature dealing with serious subjects gives teens (both female and male) a voice they may not have had otherwise. My two latest purchases are Julie Murphy’s Dumplin’ about a self-proclaimed fat girl who’s comfortable in her skin, and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not, which navigates subjects like suicide and gender identity in a skillful, honest way.
It’s not a surprise to me that so many of these books are being optioned for film. I don’t believe we’ll see a downturn in YA contemporary literature in the near future. There’s still so much that has to be said.
What contemporary YA title has made an impression on you?
In this picture you see not one, but three moms (and possibly a 4th one in the future) – my mom Sandra, my grandma Carmen, me, and my daughter. The picture was taken here in the U.S. in Indiana, at Appleworks Farm. There’s nothing more special than having a supportive family. I am thankful to be so close to my mom and my grandma, despite the physical distance (both live in Brazil). Happy Mothers’ Day!
In many ways, my mother and I are alike. We both love tea, anything tea: pots, cups, Earl Grey. We both love our family, floral patterns, and Lake Michigan. We love to create: she paints, I write. Her house is neater than mine, but I try! She taught me the importance of manners and love, two topics I’ve written about. A Kiss Means I Love You is dedicated to her and my dad. People often say I’m just like my mother. Thank you very much, I say.
Mom has a book addiction. I can’t remember a day when she didn’t lose herself in prose. She reads at home and on adventure. She reads by head lamp or candle, at dawn and dusk. She reads to know herself and the world. And she gave this gift to me. We have traveled together across continents, up mountains, and down rapids, forever lugging books in our packs. What better end to a journey, Mom thinks, than finding HOME in a book?
Frances Somerville Krick, a.k.a. my mom, died in 2009. She was an English teacher. Whenever I showed her my writing she would read it carefully, then point out any grammatical errors. “But what did you think of the story?” I would ask, exasperated, after hearing that the third sentence in the first paragraph contained two independent clauses which should be linked by a semi-colon instead of a comma. “It was wonderful, Lolly,” she would say, unruffled, as if this were a given. While my mother considered her role limited to proofreading, the truth is she shaped my life relative to words. In the days before tech she was a faithful snail mail correspondent; when I was living on one side of the country and she on the other, she penned lengthy letters several times a week. She was a dedicated reader. In fact, I cannot recall a day (apart from her very last) that she didn’t spend some period of time with a book in her hand. As a grandmother she made it a loving daily practice to read aloud to her grandchildren. And, despite her characteristic humility in casting herself as proofreader, I know the truth: she was not an editor but an exemplar. The dedication in my debut novel reads simply For my mother. It is an independent clause linked to her shining spirit.
My mom embodies generosity. I can’t remember her ever saying “no” to anyone who asked for help, and she has a sixth sense when friends need support. More than anything, I admire her generosity of spirit. She is a true listener—genuinely
interested and empathic. Whether listening to a mundane anecdote or a serious problem, my mom is never distracted and never thinking of a witty reply or what she wants to contribute to the conversation. She listens to understand. I work hard to emulate her, and it turns out, good listening has helped my writing tremendously.
My mother taught me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it. I learned that hard work was more important than raw skill, and that being kind was more important that being smart or being pretty or being talented. She introduced me to the love affair that is reading. I knew that spending a summer
lounging with book after book after book was a “good use of time.” I learned to think for myself…and that what I had to say mattered. She showed me how to appreciate life’s gifts, no matter how big or small. And you’re one of those gifts, Mom. Thank you! (I learned to say “thank you” too!)
(Pictured left: Author Suzanne Slade)
About twenty years ago I (the Mechanical Engineer who didn’t take any writing classes in college) told my mother I wanted to try writing children’s books. What did my practical, realistic, two-feet-on-the-ground mother do? She read story after story, kindly pointing out typos, grammar mistakes, and paragraphs that were just plain confusing. She encouraged, even when rejection letters piled up. She applauded, even when the “successes” were incredibly small (like a rejection letter with my name on it.) And when I finally got published, she bought books for most everyone she knew. Thank goodness for mothers!
Albert Whitman’s author Sherry Shahan, author of Skin and Bones, tells us why she chose to write this young adult novel about anorexia.
People often ask why I chose to write about eating disorders. Skin and Bones grew from a short story I wrote several years ago. It immediately sold to a major literary journal. Later, a London publisher included it in their YA anthology, and subsequently in their Best of collection. My agent encouraged me to expand the story into a teen novel.
I get lots of questions about my decision to tell the story from the perspective of a 16-year-old male. Anorexia and bulimia are usually thought of as a ‘girl’s disease.’ I really wanted to delve into the psychological mindset from a different point of view. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, this disease affects approximately 25 million Americans, in which 25% are male. Interestingly enough, when visiting schools, teachers often tell me about male students with anorexia.
Lucky for me, I’m a writer who enjoys research. For Skin and Bones I read memoirs by males and females with all types of addictions. I noticed certain commonalities. Self-centeredness, for instance. Guilt can spiral into self-loathing and feed the vicious circle. I spent countless hours online scouring medical sites about the long-term effects of starving your body.
People with eating disorders learn to manipulate family, friends, and their environment. More than one character in my story figures out how to beat the health care system. I worried about Skin and Bones becoming a how-to manual for those still in the throes of the disorder.
I wanted to include information about the potentially grave consequences associated with the illness. But I feared sounding didactic. Sometimes I sprinkled facts into quirky scenes. Other times statistics emerged in dialogue during arguments. Either way, disseminating information felt more natural when slipped in sideways.
Sherry Shahan has 40 children’s books to her credit, fiction and nonfiction. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. As a travel journalist, she’s ridden horseback in Kenya, snorkeled with penguins in the Galapagos, and hiked a leech-infested rain forest in Australia. When not writing or traveling, she spends time at dance studios near her California home.
I love picture books. So, as you can imagine, I read lots of them. For now, I have a good excuse – a five-year old who loves them as much as I do. However, I don’t think I will have the excuse for too long, as the five-year old will soon move on to more wordily adventures.
Born and raised in Brazil, the books I read as a child were not the same ones you probably read. Throughout my childhood, my two favorite picture books were Flicts by Ziraldo (a renowned Brazilian cartoonist) andChapeuzinho Amarelo (Little Yellow Riding Hood) by Chico Buarque.
Flicts tells the story of a lonely color. No one wants to play with Flicts because he’s different. Flicts travels the world looking for a place where he’s accepted, but finds none. He ends up in the moon. As Ziraldo tells it, “nobody knows, except maybe the astronauts” what color the moon is. On the very last page of the edition I have (but can’t find), Ziraldo says he met Neil Armstrong when the astronaut visited Brazil. After telling him about Flicts, Neil Armstrong confirmed, “The moon is Flicts.”
Chapeuzinho Amarelo is about a little girl who spends her days doing nothing, because she’s afraid of everything. “She was afraid of thunder. For her, worms were snakes. And she was never caught under the sun, because she was afraid of the shadow,” Chico Buarque writes. Eventually, Chapeuzinho Amarelo gets over her fears, thanks to a play with words that just works in Portuguese. So creative!
Because I grew up abroad, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to American picture book classics. The first time I read an Eric Carle book, for example, was in 2002. I had never heard of Lois Ehlert, Shel Silverstein, Leo Lionni, or even Dr. Seuss, until about a decade ago. And I am sure there are lots of wonderful authors and illustrators that I still don’t know.
Of the most recent American picture books, some of my favorites are Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, The Dot by Peter Reynolds (and almost anything by Peter Brown and Peter Reynolds. What is it about Peters?).
However, I don’t read only picture books. I have a lot of catching up to do in other genres too. I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes is possibly my favorite book ever. I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I also enjoyed.
We’re excited to announce that our YA author, Laura Hurwitz, has written a #FridayReads post this week! Be sure to check out Laura’s Tumblr.
Joan Didion first entered my life when I was a college freshman. It was 1973 and the book of her collected essays on our required reading list was Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Didion got the title from the Yeats poem “The Second Coming” which you should read, if you haven’t already, because it captures the chaotic social tenor of the 1960s, which is what this particular collection of Didion’s essays encompasses.
At the time, Didion made me feel worse than I already did about my generation, positioned as we were at the dawn of disco, which even then I perceived as the gateway culture to the ’70s Me Generation. As a young adolescent, I longed to be a hippie, to belong to a movement that was, to my mind, at least, defiant and romantic and, most of all, cohesive. I held onto this dream, which inspired and informed my YA novel, Disappear Home. Didion’s unflinching vision evoked the ’60s in a way that made me feel like a counter-culture insider, rather than a wistful wannabe.
Didion is not just smart, but whip-smart—not simply observant, but incisively so. She is not, to quote Holden Caulfield, a phony, but the real deal. I was immediately pulled into her writerly admixture of wonder and dread, a literary vortex where things that happened mattered in a way that cut to the bone, unlike now, when it seems we just slough things off and move on. What keeps me a Didion devotee, though, is not her keen evaluative eye but the perfection of her prose.
This is “In the Islands” from her 1977 collection of essays, The White Album.
…I want you to know, as you read me, precisely who I am and where I am and what is on my mind…You are getting a woman who somewhere along the line misplaced whatever slight faith she ever had in the social contract, in the meliorative principle, in the whole grand pattern of human endeavor.
Even now, reading Didion keeps me on my toes. She requires me to look up things like “meliorative principle.” I am consistently mesmerized by her ability to examine life without the slightest intention of demystifying anything, but rather, to reveal its bewilderingly illogical complexity. She makes me acutely aware that every shiny surface connects to a dark underbelly, a fact not confined to a time period or a social movement, but emblematic of the human condition.
At 80, Joan Didion is still writing. In 2005, her memoir of her husband John’s death, The Year of Magical Thinking, won The National Book Award. The subject is intensely personal, but the theme of death and loss is universal, and the voice is one hundred percent Didion.
What I would say is if you haven’t read Joan Didion, do. A good place to start is the collection of the full content of her first seven volume of non-fiction, We Tell Ourselves Storiesin Order to Live (Everyman’s Library).