Monday, January 30, 2012

When The People You Love Don't Love What You Write...

So there's been all this talk about reviews lately. If you haven't caught the drama, it's sort of over, you didn't miss much. My feelings about reviews carry over from being a theatre major and having a best friend in show business. My bestie doesn't read reviews because she is afraid they will impact her performance, make her second guess herself, change what she's doing as an actor for reasons that go against her instinct. Add to this the difficulty in trusting feedback from people you don't know and it becomes clear why she avoids reviews. Her policy makes good sense to me. Don't get me wrong. I think reviews are VERY important, but I also think you have to have the right mentality about them.

But what happens when the people you love and trust don't like your work? What happens when they don't get what you're trying to do?

When this happens to me, there's this VERY LOUD voice inside my head that says, "if you, who are supposed to be for me, don't like this, how will anyone?"

And the sad fact is the voice doesn't go away. After you have an agent. After you have an editor. After you've published a book. IT'S ALWAYS THERE. It's the voice of doubt and defeat. It's paralyzing. And I find it difficult to figure out what to do next.

But luckily, there is always an answer in some crappy teen movie. And today's answer comes from CENTER STAGE. You remember this gorgeously craptastic ballet movie, yes?

Well, there is this scene where Zoe Saldana is lamenting the unfairness of her crappy part in the final recital. And then her teacher basically tells her to stop being such a big cry baby and go back to the barre. She says the only way to get over defeat is to go back to where you started, go back to what you love, and practice. Then practice more.

For me, this is back to the computer. Back into my brain where stories live. And back to the basics of writing. Practice. Try again. Do better. Write better. Repeat.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Teenagers Online

So there's this fascinating article in Sunday's NYT about "Cracking Teenagers' Online Code." In the article, the anthropologist Danah Boyd posits that teens' lives are not that different from how they've always been, but rather, they just have a new forum (social media) in which to discuss their lives.

She contends that parents, lawmakers, etc. are getting all up in arms about cyberbullying, online sexual predators and the like when really, these dangers (bullying, abuse, etc) exist to teens just as much offline. She believes these things are being played out online because children/teens no longer have as much freedom to explore these issues in their offline lives. The days of "go outside and play, we'll see you at dinner" are no longer existent, so kids go to Facebook instead of the playground to talk, gossip, work out conflict, etc.  

This article calls to mind the speech Donna Jo Napoli gave at the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles about censorship and writing "horrible" books for children. In that speech, she pointed out the benefit of protected/sheltered kids experiencing difficult and horrible things in the world of fiction. In exposing teens to "bad" things in a forum such as a book, we are helping them develop empathy.

So this makes me wonder, how much do we really think we can protect our kids? And how much should we?

If you start to think about ALL the things kids are exposed to, it's paralyzing. PARALYZING. My mother-in-law has told me many times she doesn't think she could have raised her kids if she had to do it today. But OF COURSE she could. She's an amazing mother. And she understands that the fundamental need of all children is to feel safe and to feel loved.

Keeping kids/teens in a protective bubble is unrealistic. They will be exposed to things whether you are part of it or not. The only way to manage, in my opinion, is through open communication and a willingness to answer questions that make us uncomfortable.
Last week, at Sunday school, I talked to my 5th graders about being "called" to something. I told them that I thought my calling was to protect kids because something bad happened to me when I was little, and I don't want that to happen to anyone else. Upon reflection, I don't think that's exactly right. Yes, I do want to do everything possible to keep kids from getting hurt, but really, I think my calling is more about being open and honest and telling a story so kids/teens know it's okay to talk about the difficult truths in their lives too.

I write books about broken teenagers because that is real to me. I was a broken teenager. And I think there is some truth to what Dr. Boyd says about the reality that is playing itself out on social media forums. As long as we also understand that having access to this online world is an opportunity for dialogue. This is an opportunity for us to glimpse what is going on with our kids and we should treat that with respect.

(Oh dear. I hope this wasn't too sermon-y. I shall return to regularly scheduled rambling soon.)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Inside The Author's Studio with Cheryl Rainfield

It's time once again for Inside The Author's Studio and this month, my awesome guest is Cheryl Rainfield. For those of you who don't know, her first book SCARS is absolutely stunning. I just received her latest book HUNTED in the mail and can't wait to read it. I am so grateful she agreed to be on my blog. Make sure you leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of either of these books.

What is your favorite word?

Compassion. I love when people care about others (in a real way), and that word has always felt caring to me. I've seen so much hatred (through the abuse and torture I suffered, and also through homophobia and sexism that I've experienced) that I know how very important compassion is, and what an incredible, positive difference it can make. 

What is your least favorite word?

Serpent. It's got a lot of negative connotations for me. In ritual abuse, my abusers threw me (as a child) in a pit with snakes, so...I don't have good associations with snakes. And then there's the way they'd misuse religion--and the whole misogynist thing with Eve and the serpent. It is really not my favorite word.

What turns your current MC on?

In HUNTED, Caitlyn feels good about people who are kind and who stand up to oppression, the way she does. She also falls for Alex who is kind and caring--and athletic. He's a swimmer, just like she is. :)

What turns your current MC off?

In HUNTED, Caitlyn is turned off by people who hurt others. She's experienced a lot of that herself, since she's a Para--someone who has paranormal powers in a world where having any paranormal power is illegal.

What sound do you love?

The voices of people I love, the sound of rain falling on rooftops or the patter of rain on leaves.

What sound do you hate?

Pneumatic drills/jackhammers.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?

I wanted to be both a writer and an artist growing up, and I still love creating art (though I'm very focused on my writing and haven't done much art for a while.) I'd want to remain a writer, but be an artist as well. I find both writing and art to be wonderful means of tapping into my soul, my creativity, and helping me express what I need to express.

What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting?

A surgeon. The idea of cutting into someone else makes me shudder.

If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you?

In a dream world, it would be an incredible thrill if he said he'd read one of my books and found it moving or powerful. Other than that? I'd love to hear him talk about book promotion and writing technique.

Thank you, Cheryl for stopping by.

Don't forget to leave a comment and you'll be entered to win HUNTED or SCARS (your choice).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Tree Of Life

Many of you have expressed interest and admiration for my sister in law's gorgeous wire-rapped Tree of Life necklaces. I don't blame you. They are amazing. If you are interested in getting one of your own, you can find her here.

The Tree of Life has become sort of a symbol for my book TRAIN WRECK. I love it because it represents connection with others. And I wrote that book for the many other survivors (men, women, children) who I have connected with in my life.

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.”
 -Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry 

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be... This is the inter-related structure of reality.” 
 Martin Luther King Jr.

Hold tight to the people around you. Offer kindness to those you would otherwise pass by. We are all connected on this earth. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christa Talks To The Teens....He Said/She Said

I am ABSOLUTELY delighted to have had two teens offer to be part of my interview series this month. A boy and a girl. They are both awesome (although very different as you will see) and I am so grateful they took time to answer my crazy questions. (Also, there's an awesome giveaway at the end of the interview so make sure to leave a comment).

Without further ado, I present the color-coded He Said/ She Said version of "Christa Talks To The Teen."

Christa: What are your thoughts on dark/edgy/violent books, games, movies, etc.? 

He said: I don't think it really affects teens if they don't take it too seriously.
She said: As long as it's plausible, I don't mind it- because let's face it, we teens are pretty crazy most of the time. 

Christa: Average age most of your friends had their first drink?

He said: 16?
She said: I remember some of my friends telling me they'd sneak liquor from their parents' cabinets around grade 8-9. After that it's like, duh, we all drink. It seems like I'm one of the only people who doesn't.

Christa: How accessible are drugs/alcohol in your high school?

He said: If you know who's got it, you most likely can get some.
She said: Where I live, it's kind of a rough area, so drugs are ridiculously accessible. In fact, our school has a bad history because of some acid thing that went of a few years ago that nobody likes to talk about.

Christa: Do any of your friends have e-readers (like a Kindle)? Do they ever read books on their phones?

He said: No. And not that I know of.
She said: Nope, because most of my friends don't read. At all. It's sad, but true. As for books on phones- probably not. The most they do on phones related to reading/writing is Facebook; Twitter if they're funny. :(

Christa: Do any of your guy friends read for fun?

He said: Not really. Pretty much the same situation I mentioned in the earlier interview
She said: No. Although I do remember a couple of guy friends liking The Outsiders (which we read for class). Wait, now that I think about it- a friend's boyfriend was getting one of those Warriors books- that middle-grade series about cats in the wild. He hid it behind his back when I saw him though. *shakes head*

Christa: Go look at the Hunger Games trailer. Chick flick or no?

He said: Not really.
She said: SO NOT A CHICK FLICK! (Although I have nothing against chick flicks.) I hope not, at least. It looks kickass to me.

Christa: How many Harry Potter books have you read?

He said: Zero
(Christa side note: *sad sigh* *shakes head*)
She said: All of them. Multiple times.

Christa: Could you ever be convinced to do a book club?

He said: Yes. If we talked about it for ten minutes and then watched football. Food would also need to be supplied.
She said: Nah. I think that as a book blogger, I already get to share and discuss my thoughts on books without having an obligation to finish a book. So many books, and nowhere near enough time. 

Christa: Best movie you saw in 2011?

He said: Horrible Bosses, Harry Potter, Hangover 2
She said: I mostly watch Bollywood movies, so I'll tell you the BEST move ever (one that I re-watched in 2011, so it counts, right?): My Name Is Khan. And for anyone curious about Bollywood, My Name Is Khan is a great movie to get you started because you won't be too disoriented. No random dance numbers. No melodramatic acting.
And as for a movie that came out in 2011- Delhi Belly, also a Bolly movie. I haven't watched all of it since my parents consider "shit" a bad word and the movie has so many f-bombs that the fast forward button would die from overuse. BUT it's the first movie of its kind from our conservative India. And it's mostly English. And very popular with the youth. We're moving away from the same old love stories! Yay!

Christa: Of these four book covers, pick your favorite. 

He said: I like It's Kind Of A Funny Story. These are way better than those kissing books you had last time. 
She said: I LOVE Perks of Being a Wallflower. It's so different and cute and perfect for the story.

I <3 my teens so very much!!! I can't even tell you how much fun this was. I hope that they come back and do it again. 

COMPLETELY UNRELATED AND RANDOM GIVEAWAY: If you live in the U.S. and make a comment on this blog, I'll enter you for a chance to win one of my sister-in-law's gorgeous Tree Of Life necklaces. Contest ends next Monday (1/16).