Monday, February 27, 2012

A letter about TRAINWRECK

A few weeks ago, the Voices and Faces Project founder Anne Ream wrote a letter to some of the nation's most preeminent rape victim activists about the survivor testimonial writing workshop and TRAINWRECK. I thought I would share the letter below. I apologize in advance that it is a bit long. Thank you for taking the time to read it. (And for those of you interested, I will be blogging tomorrow about my MC Ben at The Lucky 13's Blogspot so please come meet him).

Dear All - I wanted to reach out with some exciting news.    As many of you know, in 2011 The Voices and Faces Project launched "The Stories We Tell," the country's first testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual violence, domestic violence and trafficking.   Created by writer R. Clifton Spargo, an Arts Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, our program brought together a diverse community of survivors, each seeking to write and speak out about sexual violence.  

Over the course of  our reading and writing focused two-day program, which debuted at the Chicago Cultural Center, workshop participants engaged in an innovative series of writing exercises that emphasized fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry.   During one such exercise, we asked our participants to write about sexual violence from the perspective of someone of a different sexual orientation or gender.  At that time, workshop participant Christa Desir - a Voices and Faces board member - conceived the idea for a YA (young adult) novel, written from the perspective of a male high school student whose girlfriend is raped at a party - a scenario that those of us working on sexual violence issues have encountered all-too-often.  

When Christa read her piece out loud during the workshop, we knew that she had written something special.  What we did not know was exactly how special:  coming out of our workshop, and with the encouragement of our Voices and Faces Project team, Christa expanded that initial writing exercise into a novel, and subsequently sold her book to Simon Pulse (a division of Simon and Schuster that targets the young adult audience).  "TRAINWRECK,"  a compassionate and candid exploration of the gang rape of a high school student and the responses of her friends, boyfriend and community to that tragedy, is an important and much-needed book - one that will reach high school students "where they are" with a message that they very much need to hear.  It will be published in fall, 2013.   

Books like Christa's have the potential to do more than engage.  They have the power to create change by showing the heartbreaking and all-to-human costs of sexual violence.  In a world in which the media too often celebrates violence against women and girls, we believe that TRAINWRECK will provide a very different perspective - one that can lead to a more compassionate and activist public response to sexual violence.     

For the many of you on this list who helped to make that pilot writing workshop possible, thank you.  For those of you who are interested in bringing the writing workshop to your own communities, I look forward to speaking with you!  I'd welcome the chance to tell you more about our workshop plans for the future, and to detail the support that we are seeking so that we might realize those plans in North America, and beyond.  

With gratitude and respect for each of you,


Friday, February 17, 2012

Inside The Author's Studio with Jus Accardo

Today's guest for Inside the Author's Studio is the fabulous Jus Accardo. Jus's book TOUCH came out last November and she will have a novella (UNTOUCHED) coming out in a month in anticipation of her second Denizen novel TOXIC (releasing in September). Remember to leave a comment for your chance to win a free copy of TOUCH. You can follow Jus here

Thanks for inviting me today, Christa!

What is your favorite word? Psychosomatic. Say it with me now. You know you want to…

What is your least favorite word? Panties. I can’t tell you why. I just hate it. Like with the power of ten thousand mutant fire ants, kind of hate… I also hate Auntie, so it might be that I have something against words that end in IE… They feel…cutesie. Ick. Another one. Someone get me a fly swatter…

What turns your current MC on? My current MC is Dez, and from having spent so much time with her, I’d have to say someone who isn’t afraid to live. Someone willing to take risks, live in the moment, and do what makes them happy.

What turns your current MC off? I’d say it’s definitely weakness. Dez is do what it takes, go all out, kind of girl. She needs a guy who is not afraid to get his hands dirty (or break some bones—his or others) if the situation calls for it.

What sound do you love? The soft sound of doggie snores. I can’t work without them. At any given time, there is at least one snoring dog in my house (because they’re all incredibly spoiled and lazy as hell). Usually when I work, they all curl up around my chair—there’s three of them—and snore the day away. I love it.

What sound do you hate? Rubbing Styrofoam! Omg. Worst sound EVER. Come here…I’ll prove it to you.

What is your favorite YA quirk? (i.e. The Colonel’s desire to give everyone nicknames) Actually, I’m kind of in love with nicknames. Remember Sawyer from Lost? (Not YA, but still!) Other than, *ahem* the obvious, he was my face character simply because of his nickname fetish.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? I was almost a chef—like, I was days away from entering the C.I.A. Given my insane food allergies, that probably would have ended in disaster, so I’m going to go with a vet. I’ve always loved animals. Animals don’t laugh when you face plant for no apparent reason. Well, there was that one horse that time…but he was just mean.

What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting? Sheep herder. Because seriously, have you ever smelled sheep? Eww! That smell doesn’t wash out…

If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? Wow… Um, I don’t know what I’d want him to say to me, but I’d want to say to him that his work is powerful and thought provoking and exquisitely written. I could go on from there, but he’d probably take out a restraining order…

Hooray!!! Thanks for coming to visit Jus. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of TOUCH. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dear Teen Gae---A letter to Gae Polisner's Past Self

So I don't know if you all know the absolutely fabulous, Gae Polisner, but if you don't, you should. She is hilarious and honest and so incredibly likable, I can't say enough about how lucky I am to have met her. She blogs here and her fantastic book, THE PULL OF GRAVITY is here.

Today, Gae is on my blog with a letter to her teen self. She is ALSO on my dear friend and CP Amy's blog with a letter to her future self. You should read both. She's that amazing. And when you're done reading this, leave a comment and I'll buy one of you a copy of THE PULL OF GRAVITY.

Dear Teen Gae,

Ah, grumpy girl.

geesh! Put a smile on that miserable face.

So, life as a teenager can be totally suckish and hard. I get it. You’ve had braces and (aviator) glasses and your back has a curve (<--- closeted Boston brace-wearer. On after school, off before).

Your friends are flaky.

Your sister is better at things.

And you don’t always succeed the way you want to.

But here’s the thing. Sure, it’s partly just an age thing, but, bozo chicky, it’s partly because you LET it be so suckish and hard.

Geesh! Put a smile on your face and have some grace. And make some better choices.

You focus on the wrong things, and, man, you know how to pick the wrong friends.

FYI, those girls: shallow and catty. And those boys? Um, yeah, good football players, but, brain surgeons? No, not exactly.  

I promise you, there are nice, smart, fun kids in middle and high school. So, STOP worrying about your hair and popularity, and GO HANG WITH THE HONOR SOCIETY KIDS!

I’m not going to convince you now any better than your mother did then, am I?

Okay, fine. Never mind. Finish that Jane Fonda exercise tape, lie flat on your back so you can zip up those skin-tight Jordache jeans so not a single wrinkle remains, slip on your spike-heeled Candies clogs, then come here and sit with me. We’ll blow dry your perfectly-feathered hair for the gazillionth time today, smooth on some Bonne Bell Lip Smacker, and talk about a few minor things that might save you.

First, read this book.

Why? Because your mother left it on your bed. You roll your eyes now, but you will read it. And every day when you leave for school, your mother will call, “IALAC” to you as you walk out the door. She will pronounce it wrong – “ILIAC!” – and you won’t necessarily believe it at first, but you will remember it and it will become embedded in your brain.

Sincere repetition is a kind of delayed magic. Trust me on this. And, remember it when you have your own kids.

Second. Try to act smart and keep your sense of humor. You’re a fairly smart and funny kid. And teachers love smart and funny. Deans love smart and funny. Employers love smart and funny. And your “Biggest Brownnose” award will go way further toward getting you appropriate college application recommendations from those teachers than your Best Body Award. (<-- geesh, seriously! I kid you not. In 1982 they gave those). And in 2012, when you’re 40-something *coughs*, that sense of humor will still buoy you while all your body parts sag.


Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah.

Third. Pick a few quality friends. Okay, fine, how about one? All you really need is one good friend. Yep, fine. She’s a keeper. Of course, you will go through your trials and tribulations, but she is smart and funny too, and thirty years from now you will still be deeply connected.

And, fourth: Date the “Bodies,” the Schmoes, the Razzle-dazzlers, but marry the smart, funny, humble, loyal, (and, if you are lucky, handsome) guy who sees eye-to-eye on life, the world, and politics, and can croon a nice tune. 
Quality stuff here

Trust me on this one. Go for substance over form. You’ll be surprised how long substance will last you. Even through the roughest of times.
Good luck. Now, go fix your pants. I think I see a small wrinkle of space that crept in there.

Love, Present Gae 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Writing Lessons from Teen Movies...

So after all the enthusiasm I got from my Center Stage reference, I have decided to start a new meme about writing lessons I've learned from teen movies. Which means I have to start with the movie that my sister and I saw so many times when we were little that we could quote large chunks of it:

Best quotes:

KEITH: I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend's a tomboy. These things don't fly too well in the American high school.


WATTS: I've been thinking a lot lately about you and me. And I came to a conclusion that I didn't wanna deal with. But now that we talked, I can't hide it anymore. I think we'd get along much better, if we didn't spend so much time together anymore.
WATTS: Because, I'm driving you crazy, and you're driving me crazy. And I'd rather not see you and have you think good things about me, than have you see me and hate me. 'Cause I can't afford to have you hate me, Keith. The only things I care about in this g*dd*mn life, are me, and my drums, and you.


Yes, John Hughes took S.E. Hinton's wrong side of the track OUTSIDERS trope and turned it into movie gold in the 80's. If you look at the common themes in most of his movies, they all tend to revolve around the issue of haves vs. the have nots.

But to me, what made Some Kind of Wonderful stand out is that Keith fell in love with his best friend. So many people complain about "instalove" in YA books that it makes me feel like all YA writers should be required to see SKoW just to remember how real teen relationships work. Writing paranormal books does not give you a get-out-of-relationship-building-free card. Your readers still have to buy it. Yes, there is legitimate insta-attraction between teens, but most teenagers I know in real life have ended up dating someone they were friends with first. THAT is the reality of teen dating.

Which brings me to my book recommendation for the day...the one that got it RIGHT when it comes to friendship and dating.

The great thing about Anna and Etienne is that they spend most of the book as friends. Yes, there is attraction, but the bottom line is that they are besties first and that makes them getting together in the end so believable and wonderful. So go rent SKoW and then read ANNA, and remember that effective YA relationships need a solid foundation, even if they are between bear-shifting angels and granddaughters of earth goddesses.

Now tell me your thoughts on friendship before dating vs. instalove in YA books???

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My SimonPulse Book Deal!!!!

So do you all remember when I blogged about the book that will never be published? The one that I was inspired to write after the survivor testimonial writers' workshop I attended last April. The one that was too short, too dark, too graphic. The one that I HAD to write even though it sliced up parts of my soul to do so. 

And do you remember how all you awesome bloggy people helped me with the query for this and how I got my fantastic agent Sarah LaPolla from this query?

Eighteen-year old Ben Baptiste decides not to go to the party with his girlfriend, Ani. He’s not there when two strangers pour her drinks and brag about the upcoming “ride.” He misses her table dance, her announcement of a plan to hook up with half the guys in the room, and finding her passed out three hours later with no memory of the night.

But when doctors surgically remove a lighter left inside Ani, he's there. When whispers of "Firecrotch" and "Manhole" follow Ani down the school halls, he's there. When Ani begs him to make her forget, but then cries as he whispers, "I love you," he's there. And when his best friend tells him Ani's messing around with other guys, he is there.

Ben doesn't know how to fix Ani. But he is there.  

Well, that awesome agent of mine sent that book out because in her words, "we have to get this into teens' hands." And the absolutely fabulous Anica Mrose Rissi at SimonPulse liked it. Anica Mrose Rissi who edited several of my favorite books of ALL time (INVINCIBLE SUMMER, WITH OR WITHOUT YOU, EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE). Yes, I'm dying. It's too amazing. Can you believe how lucky I am? Me neither. 

So this little book of mine, TRAINWRECK, is going to be published by SimonPulse. It is currently slated for release Fall of 2013. And people in the world will get to hear Ben and Ani's story. And then maybe it will make people think a little bit differently about rape. 

I have so much gratitude for all the people who have been with me on this writer's journey. For those who have helped me find my voice. For the other writers whose books make me want to do better. For those who have read my books and given me awesome feedback. For those who have lifted me up when I felt like maybe I couldn't do it. You have to know how much each and every one of you mean to me. 

My hope for this book has always been to use 50% of the proceeds to help create more testimonial writing workshops out of it. (So yes, when it comes out, you MUST buy it because we will all win then). And because of Anica and the people at SimonPulse, we will be able to do another workshop. Maybe lots more workshops. 

So I will leave you with a giant SQUEE of "HOLY CRUD, MY BOOK IS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED" and a video of some of the people who are part of the Voices and Faces Project (you will see me with my little Jojo there.)