What YA Gave Me

YA has been a part of my life, even before I knew to call it YA.

From reading the Inkspell series every night with my dad, to reading every book ever written by Tamora Pierce, YA has always been there. At the time, I didn’t realize what a big influence it was having on me–I was just reading books, and falling in love with these stories. Now I look back and see how much books, and more specifically YA, changed me and helped to shape me into the person I am today.

Some people consider young adult as “less than adult”. But for me, in a lot of ways YA is more than adult. Adult books may have wonderful stories that capture our emotions or change our views on certain things, but it is a very rare book that truly changes us. But reading YA while growing up, there are so many books that changed me.

YA is so important because it is targeted right at the most formative years of a person’s life–YA is a point of change, and it most certainly was for me. It does not flinch away from life’s toughest subjects, and Through YA, I learned about being strong, but that it’s also okay to not always be strong. I learned about womanhood, and love, and even sex. I learned about family and friends and all kinds of different relationships, and bonds that tie us all together. I learned about loss and death, grief and pain.

YA opened my eyes. It showed me places and people and views different than my own, hundreds of different kinds without ever leaving my room. I learned about others, but I also learned about myself. I learned what was most important to me, I found role models to look up to and emulate.

One day, I hope that I can write these kinds of books. The kind of stories that change people. To me, that would be the ultimate success as an author. More than money or awards or recognition, I want to be able to affect others. I want to be able to make someone fall in love with stories, or find a new genre, or maybe even change their life. Because I think that’s what stories are really about, connecting and changing us.

Do you read YA? If not, you should stop reading this and go find a book right away (seriously, shoo). Young or old, I think YA is very special in its capacity to affect all ages and all walks of life. I really think there’s something in it that almost anyone can relate to.

What are your favorite YA books? What are the ones that changed you, and how did they change you?


I know it’s been too long since I’ve posted, but things have been so crazy. Good news though, finals will be done next week so then I will be free for an entire month! 🙂 But don’t worry, I’ll have a snapshot post for y’all on Wednesday with an extra long excerpt, and next weekend I should be able to join back in with Weekend Writing Warriors! I’ve got some great snippets for y’all 🙂

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Writing as a Superpower

Superhero movies are everywhere right now. Spiderman, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, you name it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch stories about often ordinary people becoming larger than life and saving the world? They capture our inner child, and the part in every one of us that wants to be a part of something bigger than ourselves.

Which superpower would you want to have? Flying, super strength, x-ray vision? I’ve always thought that flying would be the best superpower. I could go anywhere I wanted in the world, anytime. Not to mention I’d never have to deal with traffic again.

But while those are all great superpowers and would be so super cool to have, I think we have a pretty great superpower of our own.

Writing.

How could writing be a superpower? You couldn’t stand in Godzilla’s path of destruction, hold up your pen, and command him to stop. Well, you could but you’d just end up a little human bug squashed on the bottom of his foot. You couldn’t do much of anything in a big screen superhero world except be one of the many citizens running for their lives.

But off the big screen, in our real world, writing has a lot of power. A lot more than we realize, sometimes. I bet every one of us can name the book or author who sparked our love for words, or who inspired us to change in some other way. For me, it was Tamora Pierce. I’d always loved reading, but her books started a fire in me that I couldn’t put out, and haven’t been able to, to this day. Not only did she inspire me to write, but she taught me so much about myself and life at a time when I was so young and trying to figure everything out.

Writing has the power to change lives. Books can inspire a new generation of writers. They can shape or even redefine someone’s perception of themselves, or the world. Books can open eyes, and call people to action to change the wrong in our world.

I’ve heard countless stories and have friends who say that books saved their lives. I myself am one of them. You can read my full story here, but writing is what got me through my illness, and through the absolute darkest moments of my life. Writing was that one beam of light, when everything seemed hopeless. It has given me strength, motivation, and hope.

Sometimes I am just so amazed at the power books can have to truly change lives. Isn’t it beautiful, how words and stories are one of the few things that can affect us all, no matter age, race, country, or language? And by affecting all of us, they bring us together, unite us, in a way that nothing else can? Stories are the world’s most powerful tools.

By changing each of these lives, by affecting us and uniting us, writing has the power to change the world.

Just look at the Hunger Games series. While they are undeniably brilliant, I doubt that Suzanne Collins expected to create real-world impact when she wrote those books. Real-life protesters in Thailand adopted the three-finger salute to challenge a military coup in their country. I got chills seeing some of the images from those protests. And very recently, the Ferguson protests, which happened to be the same week as the Mockingjay release, I kept thinking of the movie when watching news coverage. Katniss’ words to Snow replayed in my mind: “If we burn, you burn with us.” And then, those exact words appeared tagged on a wall during the protests.

This is one of the many things I love about books. There really is nothing else that can have so much power. But this is also something we have to consider as writers, the same way superheroes have to consider how to use their powers. How will we use writing for good? How will we use it to change lives, or even the world?

Your writing doesn’t have to be epic or grand, with some sort of deep, lasting, philosophical message. Even if your writing is just a scary story for a thrill, or a love story, or just for fun, your writing will still influence someone. You have the power to change a life, even if it’s as seemingly simple as falling for a new genre, or learning about relationships and love, or finding a passion for writing. Because if every single one of us changes just one life, together we have changed the world.

So writers, assemble! The word signal is lit, our writing senses are tingling, and it’s time to save the world, one word at a time 🙂

The Magic Number

One thing I have noticed lately is writers who are agented or published have one thing in common: most of them, this is their second, or third, or sixth book–it took them that many tries to get it “right”. This made me curious. Is there an unspoken magic number in the publishing world? Is there a certain number of books it takes to master the art?

Like I’ve said before, I’ve been writing my whole life. What started as picture books progressed to short stories then chapter books, until finally I finished my first complete novel at 12, handwritten in a pink journal. It was a science fiction/dystopian about a girl who discovers government secrets, and then teams up with the rebels to overthrow them. Naturally, now I read it and it’s complete crap, and will live the rest of its life locked away in my files, never to see the light of day.

My second book was an epic fantasy that probably should have been two or three books instead of one, about four kids united by magical powers, saving their land from the Dark Lord. I was probably about 13 when I wrote it, so considering that it’s pretty brilliant, but like the previous will never see the light of day.

My third I wrote when I was about 15 and is 102 pages of teenage angst. It was my first contemporary, about a girl whose boyfriend is killed in a car accident. Again, teenage angst. There are some tiny gems, but most of it is one giant facepalm.

Now my fourth was Ember, which you have probably heard me mention. I started writing it when I was 17, and this was the first one worth reading. Countless rewrites and two years later, I am in the process of querying it. Though I’ve only been at it six months or so, it’s hard not to get discouraged, especially when promising leads end up going nowhere. I started writing its companion, but needed a break from writing in the same world and same story for two years. So to battle the rollercoaster of querying, I started Nightfire.

Ember and Nightfire are my true loves. But one question I have been asking myself a lot lately is–what if Ember isn’t the one? What if it’s just another one in the series before I get it “right”? I absolutely believe in that story; I love the characters, the world, everything. It was the first story that characters became real to me, that I started to get voices in my head. I believe I have developed my writing skills well enough that I could be published now. But what if there’s something wrong in the formula? Something that Nightfire has the chance to get right?

Which led to me wonder–what is the magic number? I wrote three books before Ember, but was that enough? Do the ones I wrote at 12 or 13 count, when I was still so young and had so much to learn?

I believe in Ember, but I wonder if it’s not the one that will get me agented and published. Maybe that is Nightfire, and Ember can come later. But my question remains–is there a number?

What do you think? How many books have you written–if any? Is there a magic number of books a writer has to write, before they have “mastered” it? Is there a magic number of books it takes before one makes an agent fall in love?

 

What’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey. If you’d like to join us, check out the blogs each week, get to know some of the other writers taking part, and spread some writerly love! 

What I’m Reading

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The Park Service by Ryan Winfield (Park Service Trilogy #1). I totally happened on this book by accident, I was actually reading another book when I found it and downloaded a sample on my kindle. This book is a perfect example of two things you’re normally not supposed to do (prologue, and opening with MC waking up) and doing them so well it blew my mind (a further blog post to follow regarding rules and how to break them). I was so hooked by the end of the prologue, I put away the other book and haven’t been able to put down this one since. Winfield has created such a vivid, resonating, creative, and yet realistic world. He has done post-apocalyptic society in a unique way that is also entirely believable. I can’t wait to see what’s next 🙂

What I’m Writing

Well, I thought I was done with my MS. Seriously, I had started printing it out for a read-through. But of course my characters wouldn’t let me get off that easily. I already knew I had to change my climax and pacing, but wanted to find that out in the read-through. As part of the pacing, I counted how many scenes each POV had, and found an overwhelming gap. So I went to even that gap, and Crow (one POV) yanked the pen out of my hands and started writing his own story. I’m serious. I’ve added over 6k of purely his POV so far, with more scenes planned. He is even fighting to become the ultimate love interest, instead of the guy I’ve had planned all along. It’s kind of frustrating but amazing all at the same time. As I also talked about in this post, I’ve unbound his restraints, and he’s shown me all new depths of darkness and depravity, but it’s kind of brilliant and exciting 🙂

What Inspires Me

This week I’ve been kind of overwhelmed by support from the writing community. I’ve been a little out of touch with my online presence lately, with so much else going on, that it seemed a lot like a chore. Then I came back, and I remembered why writers and book people are the best people in the world 🙂 It is amazing to me that I can connect to people I’ve never met before, some who are across oceans and continents from me. And I love when I see bookish things trending on twitter, hashtags we created, because it reminds me of the impact and influence we can have when we put our minds to it. I kind of picture us like a little nerd army, wielding books and laptops as weapons 😉

What Else I’m Up To

SUMMER! Sorry, this has been a crazy semester and I am so glad to be done with it. I’ve been enjoying the time off with much needed naps, binge-watching Netflix, and pool time. This summer, boyfriend and I decided to try something different, since we’ve kind of gotten into the lull of just spending time at each others houses, watching Netflix or movies, usually in our PJs. Boyfriend actually came up with the idea, and I was inspired by many similar lists we found on Pinterest.

So, we made our very own Summer Bucket List! The idea is to (at least) once a week do something new or different than our usual. It includes everything from roadtrips to frisby golf to reading a book together, and we have 75 on the list so far. Boyfriend even had the added idea of writing them down, sorting into categories, and drawing randomly (ie places to go, museums, free, restaurants, and whichever we pick, we have to do). What do you think? Do you have any awesome summer ideas for us?

Happy Wednesday! 🙂