Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Giveaway #10 – Your Favorite Sports Scene

Many young adult books have a storyline about a character, usually the protagonist, who plays a sport competitively, dances or does some other kind of physical activity really well. My favorite sporty character is Rebecca Mason from Anne Digby's Trebizon series. Rebecca is a good student and a gifted writer who discovers that she has an immense talent for tennis when she's about fourteen.

In The Tennis Term at Trebizon, Rebecca's goal is to earn a spot on her school's varsity tennis team. To do this, she's got to prove that she's better than Edwina Burton, an older student who is also a talented player. Their coach arranges a match between them with the idea that the winner will take the sixth and last place on the team. Rebecca wins the match. Afterward, she wanders off of the court and stretches out in front of an ancient tree on her school's campus, close to an easel where a friend is painting a picture of the campus. Rebecca dozes off and wakes to find her friend painting her into the picture. This is what she sees:

“The dark tree-the sunlight-the warm glow of school buildings beyond. Everything was there. And something had been added. A tiny figure in white reclining under the tree in an attitude of joy, ecstasy, even her racket lying in the grass beside her. Here the paint was new and glistening.”

What I love about this moment is that after Rebecca has won the match, her friend captures the spirit of the moment and its context: the triumph, the beauty of the day and the love for her school.

What's your favorite sporting moment in YA literature? Let me know in the comments section below and you can win a copy of The Splendor Falls by Rosemary Clement-Moore. Remember to leave me a way to contact you. I'll pick a winner on Monday, Dec. 6.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cookies! Warm and Just out of Your E-Reader

I was really excited by some news about e-readers that came out last week. In the near future they will give authors a chance to add "bonus items" to their e-books like recipes, patterns for everything from clothing to coasters, interactive maps of their imagined worlds and more. I was excited because baking is an important activity in my books. My main character, Sarah Conrad, is trying to lead her life according to the themes in her favorite book, Little Women. Just like the March sisters did, Sarah bakes to make friends, give gifts and think about lessons of self-reliance.

My Thanksgiving gift to you is the recipe for the first treat that Sarah bakes for her friends:

Sarah Conrad's Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

¼ cup of white sugar

¼ cup of brown sugar

1 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

10 tablespoons or 1/3 sticks of butter (at room temperature)

1 egg (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

Set out butter and egg, let come to room temperature

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Measure out the flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl and mix with a fork so that the salt and baking soda are well combined with the flour.

Cream together butter and sugars until well blended, about three minutes. You can do this with a stand mixer, a hand mixer or by hand.

Add egg and mix well. Scrape the side of the bowl to make sure all of the batter gets mixed

Beat in the vanilla extract

Beat in the flour mixture until it's well mixed.

Add chocolate chips

Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, measure out the batter into roughly one-inch dollops on two baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. When finished, slide off of the baking sheets with a spatula and let cool on a rack.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Book in One Sentence?!

When you tell someone that you're writing a young adult book, they typically ask what it's about. My standard, boiled-down response is, “It's a coming-of-age story about a girl who tries to live her life according to the principles in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.”

When I tell people my one-line summary, they sometimes ask if I mean that Sarah, my narrator, wears long dresses and role plays. Not at all, although she wouldn't turn up her nose at occasionally putting on some good, old-fashioned dresses and twirling around. It's more like she's trying to do what the March sisters would have done.

Some of this has to do with how she is a good and loyal friend. But it's also being an industrious person, always bustling around and working on something or making something. Sarah knits socks and hats for her friends. She learns how to make energy bars for her cycling team once she figures out she can do it for a lot less money than it would cost to buy them. I even have this crazy idea that my book could include Sarah's Energy Bar Recipe and Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. Or some easy patterns and instructions for knitters.

Getting the topic of my book refined into one sentence was difficult. As a writer, it's hard for me to step back from my work to try and summarize it in so few words. I want to tell people so much more, like how I'm experimenting with narrative voices. I want to talk about how my research on Alcott in college transformed a book I had loved to read into a text that was worth studying.

Monday, November 8, 2010


One of my favorite series of books is Ruth Elwin Harris' Sisters of the Quantocks Hills. The story is about four intelligent, artistic (and orphaned) sisters and is set in England in the years before the beginning of World War II.

Each book is written from the perspective of one of the sisters. A period of time overlaps from the end of one book to the beginning of the next. Additionally, each of the sisters reflects on a walk that they took to the Quantocks Hills with the handsome sons of their guardian before the war broke out. The books have both linear and overlapping narration: each time an event is described, the reader sees it from a different perspective and learns something critical to the plot or about the characters. It's an awesome technique that left me gasping with oh-my-goodness and oh-no-she-didn't moments.

As an avid reader of series books, I've rarely found examples of overlapping narration. Many series books are linear, with each one bringing the story forward and setting it up for the next one. There are just a few that I found where the author is writing about the same situation from different character's perspective. What disappointed me about these books is that I feel like the author didn't take advantage of the chance to describe the situation from different character's perspectives. The author simply chronicled each character's reaction to it.

What the other characters are thinking is of enormous interest to me as a reader, which I think is why I like the overlapping narration technique so much. I think many authors have felt the same way, as evidenced by re-telling of literally famous stories, such as C.S. Lewis' retelling of the story of Cupid and Psyche in Till We Have Faces and Gregory Maguire's Wicked.

Here's my question: what are your favorite books that use narration like this?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Giveaway #8 – Dragons

Do you like dragons? Tell me about it and you can win a copy of Firelight, a new book by Sophie Jordan.

Firelight is about a girl named Jacinda who is a draki, or a descendant of dragons. She breaks a tenet of her society and is banished to live with the mortals. And then the girl meets boy, star-crossed love story begins.

My own favorite dragon is Eustance Scrubb, who is temporarily transformed from a human in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis after “sleeping on a dragon's hoard with greedy, dragonish thoughts in his heart.”

In the comments box below, tell me about your favorite dragon. I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 8th and announce it here and on twitter. Just make sure you remember to leave a way for me to contact you!