Winter Vacation Reading Selections

Winter vacation is the perfect time to curl up with a good book. Here are some new arrivals in the Three Rivers Library Teen area.

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood (Book Two of the Cahill Witch Chronicles)

In Book One, Cate was just learning of her powers and the need for them in a world where the Brotherhood was persecuting witches. Now Cate will need to decide if she is willing to use her powers as a weapon, especially as such a choice might cause her to lose Finn forever and endanger everyone she loves.

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood

 

 

 

 

 

Sister’s Fate by Jessica Spotswood (Book Three of the Cahill Witch Chronicles)

Ramping up to its conclusion, Cate struggles with betrayal, her fiance’s amnesia and the prophecy that predicts the murder of one of the Cahill sisters by another.

Sister’s Fate by Jessica Spotswood

 

 

 

 

 

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Book One in the Dust Lands Trilogy)

Lugh and Saba are twins and even life in the wastelands is tolerable as long as they have each other. But when Lugh is kidnapped, Saba sets out to find him, discovering others with whom her fate is intertwined and confronting a growing understanding that she is much more than she assumed.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young

 

 

 

 

 

Rebel Heart by Moira Young (Book Two in the Dust Lands Trilogy)

Success can come with a price and now there is one on Saba’s head. The people she has trusted to help her may be her betrayers, the powers of her adversaries far greater than she believed. Warrior strength aside, Saba will be lucky just to survive.

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

 

 

 

 

 

Raging Star by Moira Young (Book Three in the Dust Lands Trilogy)

The fight is on but who to fight? The vision of her enemy sounds like paradise and Saba could be one of the chosen few. But Jack is on the other side, his loyalties strong and clear. And what, really, can a band of guerrillas do in the fight against a trained army?

Raging Star by Moira Young

 

 

 

 

 

A Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

Jules and Remy (or, if you prefer, Romeo and Juliet) are from rival families, both seeking fame in the Cirque American as high wire walkers and trapeze artists. They join forces when bad magic threatens to bring them down – literally.

A Girl on a Wire by Gwenda Bond

 

 

 

 

 

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

Willa is having visions and someone is stalking and killing Los Angeles teenagers in Hollywood movie style. Could the two things be related? And, even if they are, who can Willa trust to help her?

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

 

 

 

 

 

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

Julia Buchanan is every girl’s dream best friend, possessing wealth, beauty, popularity and a gorgeous older brother. Charlotte can’t imagine being so lucky until she begins to see Julia for who she is, the victim of a secret family tragedy.

Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

 

 

 

 

 

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar is a magical place accessed through special red journals distributed to the five emotionally damaged members of a class focusing on the works of Sylvia Plath.  Jam is among them and finds that she can return to a time before the love of her life died and also share her grief with the other students.  Within Belzhar, though, is also a chance to make decisions about what she is willing to sacrifice to remain in the past.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

 

 

 

 

 

Atlantia by Ally Condie

When Rio, who is the only other person to know of Bay’s siren voice, chooses Above and Bay is stuck Below, Bay’s whole life changes. Suddenly, she is questioning everything: her mother’s death, her relationships, and the system that made the divide between Above and Below in the first place.

Atlantia by Ally Condie

 

 

 

 

 

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

Magic and fantasy merge with 18th-century sword-fighting adventure in this tale of Kit who, by taking on his dying master’s cape, accidentally adopts his quest as well, causing him to cross paths with every manner of creatures from goblings to beautiful princesses.

The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp

 

 

 

 

 

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers (Book Three in His Fair Assassin Trilogy)

In Book One, Ismae introduced us to the convent of St. Mortain and the God of Death. In Book Two, Sybella, created by Death himself, struggles to find meaning to life beyond vengeance. Now, in Mortal Heart, Annith takes the intrigue beyond the convent walls and seeks the answers that may lead her and her country to safety.

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

 

 

 

 

 

Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott

Sam’s strategy for getting through school – and life – is invisibility. It seems to be working until a teacher pairs him with Luis for a slam poetry project. It’s time for Sam to show up – for Luis and for himself.

Jumped in by Patrick Flores-Scott

 

 

 

 

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Callum Hunt tries to flunk the Iron Trial exam for entry into the Magisterium because his father has warned him to avoid magic at all costs. It doesn’t work, though, and now Call will be the student of the greatest mages ever to live.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Jude and Noah are twins, tied together forever and also torn apart by the very things that make them similar. Noah’s chapters are told from the perspective of the twin’s 13-year-old selves and Jude narrates the story from the age of sixteen. Something serious has happened in between…

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

 

 

 

 

 

Half Bad by Sally Green

Nathan’s father was a notorious dark witch and his mother a white witch – and dead. Nathan is kept in a cage, beaten, tortured and deemed too dangerous to mix with others due to his parentage. He must escape to come into his own power.

Half Bad by Sally Green

 

 

 

 

 

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

Sarah is having surgery at a hospital-turned-prison to erase her memory, purportedly for her own good, when the procedure is interrupted by mercenaries who are apparently there for her. She escapes with the help of a teen hacker with his own motives, but she not only has to stay alive, she has to find out why she is being pursued.

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin

 

 

 

 

 

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

The Winterians were conquered sixteen years ago when Meira was just a baby. She has been among the few survivors to escape ever since and it will be up to them to recover their land and free the people. And it will take magic to make it happen.

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

 

 

 

 

 

The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

Pearl will never love the Rat. The baby is the reason her mother is dead and Pearl can’t even look at her without being reminded of her grief. But Mom keeps visiting and Pearl needs to hear what she has to say.

The Year of the Rat by Clare Furniss

 

 

 

 

 

Trouble by Non Pratt

Hannah is pregnant and needs a friend badly. Aaron is the new kid and ends up pretending to be the father of Hannah’s baby. Told with Hannah and Aaron as alternating narrators, this is the story of the power of friendship.

Trouble by Non Pratt

 

 

 

 

 

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

Written originally in French, the story of Vango leads across continents and among pirates, assassins, Nazis, the British elite and the European underworld between the two world wars. He planned to join the priesthood. Now he’s accused of a murder he didn’t commit. Time to run.

Vango by Timothee de Fombelle

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New Music on CD at the Library

Afghan Whigs – Do to the Beast

Afghan Whigs - Do to the Beast

 

 

 

 

 

Arctic Monkeys – AM

Arctic Monkeys - AM

 

 

 

 

 

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

Aretha Franklin - Lady Soul

 

 

 

 

 

Beck – Morning Phase

Beck - Morning Phase

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Keys – Turn Blue

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

 

 

 

 

 

Bob Marley – Legend

Bob Marley - Legend

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

Bruce Springsteen - High Hopes

 

 

 

 

 

Carole King – tapestry

Carole King - Tapestry

 

 

 

 

 

The Clash – London Calling

The Clash - London Calling

 

 

 

 

 

Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else

 

 

 

 

 

Cold War Kids – Hold My Home

Cold War Kids - Hold My Home

 

 

 

 

 

Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain

Conor Oberst - Upside Down Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

Counting Crows – August and Everything After

Counting Crows - August and Everything After

 

 

 

 

 

EMA – The Future’s Void

EMA - The Future's Void

 

 

 

 

 

Eminem – The Slim Shady LP

Eminem - The Slim Shady LP

 

 

 

 

 

Eric Church – The Outsiders

Eric Church - The Outsiders

 

 

 

 

 

Fatima Al Qadiri – Asiatisch

Fatima Al Qadiri - Asiatisch

 

 

 

 

 

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

 

 

 

 

 

Hozier – Hozier

Hozier - Hozier

 

 

 

 

 

Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like a Bell

Hundred Waters - The Moon Rang Like a Bell

 

 

 

 

 

Hurray for the Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes

Hurray for the Riff Raff - Small Town Heroes

 

 

 

 

 

Jack White – Lazaretto

Jack White -  Lazaretto

 

 

 

 

 

James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

James Vincent McMorrow - Post Tropical

 

 

 

 

 

Janet Jackson – Janet

Janet Jackson - Janet

 

 

 

 

 

Jimi Hendrix – Are You Experienced?

jimi

 

 

 

 

 

Kelis – Food

Kelis - Food

 

 

 

 

 

Liars – Mess

Liars - Mess

 

 

 

Madonna – Ray of Light

Madonna - Ray of Light

 

 

 

 

 

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On

 

 

 

 

 

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Michael Jackson - Thriller

 

 

 

 

 

Miranda Lambert – Platinum

Miranda Lambert - Platinum

 

 

 

 

 

Neil Young – Harvest

Neil Young - Harvest

 

 

 

 

 

Nirvana – Nevermind

Nirvana - Nevermind

 

 

 

 

 

Oasis – What’s the Story (Morning Glory)

Oasis - What’s the Story (Morning Glory)

 

 

 

 

 

Pearl Jam – 10

Pearl Jam - 10

 

 

 

 

 

The Pixies – Bossa Nova

The Pixies - Bossa Nova

 

 

 

 

 

Quilt – Held in Splendor

Quilt - Held in Splendor

 

 

 

 

 

R.E.M. – Out of Time

R.E.M. - Out of Time

 

 

 

 

 

Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Sharon Van Etten - Are We There

 

 

 

 

 

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Wig Out at Jagbags

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Petty – Wildflowers

Tom Petty - Wildflowers

 

 

 

 

 

Toni Braxton & Babyface – Love, Marriage & Divorce

Toni Braxton & Babyface - Love, Marriage & Divorce

 

 

 

 

 

Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack

Tune-Yards - Nikki Nack

 

 

 

 

 

U2 – The Joshua Tree

U2 - The Joshua Tree

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Nelson – Band of Brothers

Willie Nelson - Band of Brothers

What’s wrong with this sentence? – Part 3

To wrap up the grammar series, I’m going to focus on constructing beautiful sentences. To do this, you need three things: a good concept of sentence structure, a mental picture of the image you are trying to communicate, and a willingness to follow a few rules in the painting of that picture. As language becomes more beautiful, it also becomes more complex which can cause a few problems with things like modifiers, pronouns and punctuation.

Let’s start with an example of a problem sentence and work backwards from there.

  1. His father gave Bob a copy of his grandfather’s will when he was just eight years old.

I’m guessing you might find this sentence a bit confusing. Whose father? Whose grandfather? Who was eight years old? The problem is with the pronouns – ‘his,’ ‘his,’ and ‘he.’ It is not clear to whom they are referring. In the interest of brevity, whatever was meant to be communicated has gotten lost. So, assuming that the writer is talking about Bob’s father, let’s just say that. Here’s the change:

Bob’s father gave Bob a copy of his grandfather’s will when he was just eight years old.

Okay, better, but still some confusion. We still have a problem with the possessive pronoun ‘his.’ Does this mean Bob’s grandfather or Bob’s father’s grandfather? Think about ways to fix this. Lots of possibilities present themselves.  One option might be the following:

Bob’s grandfather had a will, a copy of which Bob’s father passed on to his son when Bob was just eight years old.

Grammatically correct, but still kind of awkward. How about this:

When Bob was just eight years old, his father gave him a copy of his own father’s will.

the will

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is another example of a pronoun problem.

  1. The minute she walked out the door, it was necessary to go back in for your coat because you could tell the temperature had dropped twenty degrees.

You might have noticed right away the disagreement between the subject  ‘she’ and the reference to ‘you’ and ‘your’ later in the sentence. This is another case of required agreement between pronouns.  The antecedent is the subject of the sentence, whether it is a noun (my sister, the dogs) or a pronoun (I, we, he, she, you, they) and any subsequent pronouns have to AGREE with the antecedent. In this case, ‘she’ is the antecedent so both pronouns ‘your’ and ‘you’ have to agree with it in number (plural) and in gender – which they don’t. Here is a possible correction:

The minute she walked out the door, it was necessary to go back in for her coat because she could tell the temperature had dropped twenty degrees.

The sentence is okay now, but it still could be better. ‘It was necessary’ is a clumsy construction (called passive) and should be replaced, if possible. Here is an option:

The minute she walked out the door, she could tell the temperature had dropped twenty degrees. She hurried back in for her coat.

girl in a coat

 

 

 

 

 

Complex sentence construction often requires the use of modifiers. Therefore, it is important to know how to use them well. Here is an example:

  1. Looking out the window, the scene almost seemed calm and quiet until the wind was noticed.

The first thing you might notice here is that, the way the sentence is constructed, it seems as if the scene is looking out the window. This is called a dangling modifier and indicates that the elements of the sentence are not located in the best place. The question becomes who is looking out the window at the scene? The sentence doesn’t tell us. Secondly, we have another passive construction as in the previous sentence with ‘the wind was noticed.’ Where is the subject and shouldn’t he or she or they be doing the noticing? So, let’s fix that. The sentence doesn’t give us an actor so you can make one up. Here’s my suggestion:

To Ray, looking out the window, the scene mostly seemed calm and quiet until he noticed the wind.

With the modifier located directly beside the subject, it is clear who is doing the looking and also provides active phrasing for Ray noticing the wind. But, one problem remains. Can you find it?

Did the scene ‘mostly seem’ or did it seem ‘mostly calm?’ The difference isn’t huge but it is important. The sentence is far better this way:

To Ray, looking out the window, the scene seemed mostly calm and quiet until he noticed the wind.

Do you have any questions about grammar? Send them to me and I’ll try to answer them or help you find resources that can.

beach

What’s wrong with this sentence? – Part 2

A HUGE part of getting grammar right involves the concept of agreement.  It’s pretty simple. All the elements of a sentence have to agree with each other: in tense, in quantity, in order.

Okay, here are some sample sentences. See if you can figure out what is wrong with each of them.

  1. Amanda is bored by the movie so she went into the lobby to look at the candy display.
  2. If Mary and her daughter arrives too early, feel free to let them in.
  3. The Organization of American States convene twice per year.
  4. Each of the scholars were proud of their award.
  5. Either my sisters or my brother visit Mom every day.

One of the reasons English is such a hard language to learn is the number of irregular verbs. Sometimes it is difficult to determine the best verb to use in order for the tenses to agree. In sentence one, the first half of the sentence is occurring in present tense.

Amanda IS bored by the movie…

Unfortunately, the second half of the sentence is in past tense.

…so she WENT into the lobby to look at the candy display.

The tenses have to agree so, if the action is happening right now, both parts of the sentence have to be in present tense;  it would also work for both of the verbs to be in past tense. Just be careful in your writing that you choose a tense and stick with it.

Amanda IS bored by the movie so she GOES into the lobby to look at the candy display.

Or

Amanda WAS bored by the movie so she WENT into the lobby to look at the candy display.

candy counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence two is an issue of subject/verb agreement. The first step is to determine the subject of the sentence i.e. who is doing the action. Start with the verb: arrives. Who is arriving? Is it just Mary? Then the verb should agree with a singular subject. But it isn’t just Mary. It is Mary AND her daughter. Therefore, the subject is plural and the verb has to be as well. The sentence needs to read as follows:

If Mary and her daughter ARRIVE too early, feel free to let them in.

Sometimes, as in sentence three, the subject is a bit more difficult to determine – or, more specifically, the nature of the subject.  In this case, it seems natural to assume that the Organization of American States would be plural since, obviously, the organization has more than one member. Yet, this is not how this kind of subject is handled. The ‘organization’ is a single entity. If the sentence described more than one organization, the subject could be plural but, in this case, it is not. The same would be true of an association, a confederation, even an unnamed group (such as when you refer to the ‘group of boys’ or the ‘classroom full of children.’) The sentence needs to read as follows:

The Organization of American States CONVENES twice per year.

trophies

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence four is a similar situation. Again, the problem is easily solved by identifying the subject of the sentence.  ‘Scholars’ is not the subject of the sentence; the true subject is ‘each.’ It makes sense if you think about it. It doesn’t necessarily require noting that scholars (in general) are proud of awards. The point the writer wants to make is that EACH of the scholars felt proud. As a result, the verb in the sentence needs to agree with ‘each,’ which is singular.

And we have one more issue with this one. If the subject is singular and the verb is in its singular form, then the pronoun that refers to the subject ALSO needs to be singular. It isn’t proper grammar to use the word ‘their’ when referring to a singular subject and even though it is a bit awkward to use ‘his or her, at this point in our grammatical history, it is the only appropriate choice. (Sometimes people want to use ‘their’ as a way of avoiding gender discrimination but, unfortunately, English just doesn’t have a singular, non-gendered pronoun other than ‘it.’) The sentence needs to go like this:

Each of the scholars WAS proud of HIS OR HER award.

sentence structure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence five provides one more example of agreement. Two things are different here. First, the subjects are both singular and plural (‘sisters’ and ‘brother.’) Second, instead of being joined by ‘and,’ the subjects are joined with ‘or.’ When having to make a choice between two different forms, the rule is to make the verb agree with the subject that is closest to the verb in the sentence. In this case, the closest subject is ‘brother’ so the verb should be singular. Also, as in sentence three, if the joining word had been ‘and,’ the whole subject would be considered plural and the use of ‘visit’ as a plural verb would have been correct. Here is what the sentence should say:

Either my sisters or my brother VISITS Mom every day.

Sounds awkward, doesn’t it? So, here’s a tip. Change the sentence. This sentence could sound a whole lot better simply by changing the order of the subjects. Try it like this:

Either my brother or my sisters visit Mom every day.

Now, the verb agrees with the plural ‘sisters’ and acknowledges that, even if the whole subject isn’t technically plural, it sure sounds that way!

Breaking the Grammar Code

What’s wrong with this sentence?  – Part 1

I know this is probably going to sound weird, but I love grammar. It’s a lot like a riddle in which codes are employed to determine the best way to proceed. Generally, I’m not a huge fan of rules but, because grammar rules allow us to communicate more effectively, the rules themselves are a kind of language that can be a lot of fun to translate.

So, here is a game. See if you can identify what is wrong with each of these sentences and then we’ll talk about the grammar codes that can fix ALL of these kinds of mistakes.

  1. Dogs want to please you, cats want you to please them.
  2. Terry went home, you can probably find him there.
  3. Instead of on the stand I think it should go in the bedroom.
  4. However you may have a different opinion.
  5. Take him home give him a hot cup of tea and send him to bed.

code 1

 

 

 

 

 

All of these sentences have comma errors. Commas are used to separate thoughts or ideas WITHIN a sentence and, as I’m sure you remember from grade school, indicate a pause.

Now, take a look at the first two sentences again. Both of these sentences have the same error, commonly called a comma splice, which simply means that the commas are there when they shouldn’t be.  The problem with each of these is that there are TWO subjects in each sentence (dogs and cats in the first, Terry and you in the second.) Only compound sentences can have more than one subject and they have to be connected in a particular way. (By the way, being able to identify the subject of a sentence will go a long way toward correcting both comma errors and many other grammatical issues that will discussed in future posts.)

So, the issue is that sentences one and two both have two subjects. That means you have several choices.

  • You can divide the sentence into two separate sentences.

Dogs want to please you. Cats want you to please them.

 

  • You can add a connecting word (also called a conjunction) like and, but, or yet.

Terry went home, but you can probably find him there.

 

  • You can add a qualifying word either at the beginning or between the two sentences.

Dogs want to please you. However, cats want you to please them.

Because Terry went home, you can probably find him there.

Now let’s take a look at sentence three.

Instead of on the stand I think it should go in the bedroom.

This is a situation in which you DO need a comma.  Again, it can be helpful to look for the subject of the sentence. In sentence three, the subject is ‘I’ because ‘I’  is the one doing the ‘thinking.’ You have probably already figured out that we need a comma between ‘stand’ and  ‘I.’ That’s because the first half of the sentence is a modifier which means the sentence would actually be okay without it. The speaker could just say:

I think it should go in the bedroom.

‘Instead of on the stand’ is considered a non-essential clause. Testing the sentence for non-essential clauses is a good way to determine the need for commas.

The other option would be to say:

I think it should go in the bedroom instead of on the stand.

The sentence sounds much smoother that way and you don’t need any commas because the modification has happened in the right order.

code 2

 

 

 

 

 

In sentence four, The subject is ‘you’ because ‘you’ is the noun tied to the action (having.)

However you may have a different opinion.

Once again, the sentence would be fine without the ‘however.’

The word ‘however’ is considered transitional which basically means that it is adding a qualification to the sentence. You could also use terms like ‘moreover, on the other hand, nevertheless, instead, also, therefore, consequently, otherwise, as a result,’ each of which has its own somewhat unique meaning. The point is that all of these require a comma. The reason is the need for a pause. Think about a sentence that starts, “However you…”  It has a completely different meaning and you is no longer the subject.  In our sentence you IS the subject and so needs to be separated from the transitional word with a comma.

However, you may have a different opinion.

code 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In sentence five, the subject is actually ‘you’ as well, though this is one of those cases where our language has decided it’s okay to drop the subject since it is understood – though you could say ‘You take him home,’ etc. which sounds kind of bossy. (Just for your information, this is called an imperative sentence and suggests a command. We soften the command by leaving out the subject: YOU.

(You) Take him home give him a hot cup of tea and send him to bed

This sentence is really just a list. Commas are always required in sentences where three or more items are listed. Yes, these items are a bit long (take him home, give him a hot cup of tea, send him to bed) but the sentence sounds a lot better when each one gets to stand kind of on its own with a little pause between.

Take him home, give him a hot cup of tea, and send him to bed.

Proper use of commas is a sign of a diligent and careful writer. Commas also clarify meaning. Use them to separate primary thoughts and non-essential clauses, to set off modifiers and focus attention on the subject of the sentence, and to clarify the items in a list.

In the next post, I’ll continue with the subject of subjects and explore all the ways that making your words agree with each other can improve your writing.

The Mythology of Writing

Your beliefs about writing may actually be sabotaging the process. Here are some myths about writing and some different ways of thinking about them.

Myth: Characters will take on their own personalities and will, at some point, move the narration along as if they were the ones speaking.

Reality: Don’t count on it. It might be true that characters may lead you, the author, in unexpected directions. But the only way they can take on a personality is if you give them one. The number one question an author needs to ask themselves in relationship to character is ‘what would this person I created do in this circumstance?’ Motivation has to be consistent without being predictable. As an author, it is your job to create a unique person so that person will behave in interesting ways.

Myth: A good story tells itself.

Reality: While connected to the first myth, the idea is that writing isn’t work. Writing IS work. That isn’t bad. It just requires a lot of thought. The world is a complicated place. A book, to be worth reading and writing, needs to be a complicated place as well to feel real. That doesn’t mean you share all the complications with the reader. The author has to know what part of that they are writing about, to know everything about it, and then share the parts that are relevant to the story. It’s kind of like making a chocolate cake from scratch. You have to have all the ingredients, know how to put them together. You don’t describe the process when you serve it. The ‘audience’ will just know that the cake really tastes good.

hard-labor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myth: Write what you know.

If this were true, no one could ever write historical fiction or fantasy. A better condition might be to write what you are able to learn. Can you invent a world with robots without knowing what the robots in your story look like or are capable of? No, but you can invent them, draw a picture, make a list. Not all writing is telling the story. Can you write a story set in Paris if you’ve never been there? It depends. How much research are you willing to do? How much of the story depends on the setting? Do you just need to know how long it takes to get from the Louvre to the Arc de Triumph? That information is available. Do you want your character to wander the streets for hours, need to be able to describe the actual buildings located at the corner of such and such a street and an alley where a bakery is located? That might be a bit more difficult. As above, you need to know more than you are sharing.

Myth: You have to be in the right mood to write.

Reality: Writing IS a mindset but that mindset is not ‘I only write when I feel like it.’ Writing is, like anything else, a form of discipline. In this case, the discipline is primarily mental which means concentration. Create a space in your day, whether it is always the same time or not (that depends on you) and prepare to concentrate. Don’t look at your phone. Don’t watch a video. Don’t check your Facebook page. This time is carved out. Even if you don’t put a single word on the page, you are writing if you are thinking about nothing but the piece you are working on. Usually, if you concentrate long enough, you will have ideas you need to put on the page.

Cyber bullying concept - shadowy figures menace boy at computer. Image shot 2009. Exact date unknown.

 

 

 

 

 

Myth: Write at the same time every day.

Reality: This might be important for some people. The important thing is the idea above. Carve out time for writing. Make it a priority. Tie it to something necessary such as eating or sleeping or reading. I will write for ten minutes before dinner. I will write for a half hour before I go to sleep. I will put my clothes in the laundry and write while the washing machine is running. Fill all the empty spaces with writing.

Myth: Don’t read what you’ve already written before moving on.

Reality: Again, this is personal. Many writers like to cycle back for a bit before moving on to get the tone, or remember what was happening or because they can get the process moving by making a few editing changes before leaping into new material. Do what works for you but don’t be afraid to reread. Just don’t let that fill all your writing time.

Myth: Good writers can get it right in the first draft.

Reality: NO ONE gets it right in the first draft. In fact, many authors recommend just getting the thing on paper and then going back and actually ‘writing’ it. Again, everyone has a different approach but the thing most likely to stop a person from actually writing is fear of doing it badly. Some fear is healthy because it motivates you to question whether it could be better. Fear of bad writing is paralyzing. Go ahead and write badly. You’ll catch it on the second or third or fourth draft.

A Lesson for Being Sure You’re Right When You Say, “I can’t be a writer.”

If you want to keep believing that writers are born and not made, be sure to follow the instructions below.  

Lots of people have the idea that writing ability (or maybe any ability) is something you’re born with. But the truth is that the difference between people who write well and people who don’t is the same difference as between people who play an instrument for several hours a day and those who hardly ever practice or those who shoot baskets every day after school and those who just go in and lie on the couch and watch television. Practice doesn’t make perfect but it’s virtually impossible to excel without it. Pretty much anything someone cares about requires and deserves an investment of time. No road leads from zero to quality in minutes or hours or even days.

In some ways, this might not feel very encouraging. Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was just discover that thing you’re really talented at and not have to work hard at it at all? That way, if you wanted to write, it could be possible (for the lucky few, anyway) to just put the pen to paper and stories would just come flowing out.

Obviously, writing doesn’t work that way nor does anything else. The thing is, it would be kind of terrible if it did.  What makes a skill satisfying is the process of learning how to do it. Think about it. When you look back on times you were really happy or excited or satisfied, do you remember the part after it was all over?  Of course not. You remember when you were struggling to stand up in the wave and that, after a number of tries, you finally did it. Or you remember moving up the levels of your favorite video game and how much time and effort it took to get to the top or finding the perfect sweater at the mall after searching for hours. None of those things would be the least bit rewarding or memorable if they didn’t require the effort of learning and doing, of time and effort.

And writing is, of course, the same way. The joy is in the process, setting a goal and working to achieve it. It’s not about a means to an end but the means themselves.

No one can tell you exactly what those means are, what you have to do, step by step, to be a great writer.  But, if you want to be sure you aren’t a great writer, here is a list of things NOT to do.

  1. Don’t And definitely don’t read like a writer, thinking about the choices the author made in terms of characters and organization and sentence structure and settings. Don’t try to figure out what makes a good story tick. Doing that will just make you want to try it yourself.
  2. Don’t If you practice too much, you might find that the process becomes a lot easier and a lot more fun, that you might get so engaged that you’ll want to do nothing else.
  3. Don’t listen to what other people have to say about your writing. An audience isn’t important to a writer. It isn’t about communication. So definitely don’t ask for input or, better yet, don’t let anyone else read what you’ve written at all.
  4. Don’t try to be different. Try as hard as you can to be like everybody else so that you have nothing unique to say, no interesting experiences, nothing of value to share.
  5. In fact, don’t have any confidence at all. Chances are, you weren’t born with talent, so why bother to try?

Stop by the Library for some Great New Teen Reads!

Asylum by Madeleine Roux

Dan Crawford and his new friends at New Hampshire College Prep discover that their dorm housing is located in a former mental institution with a personality – and horrific secrets – all its own.

Clariel by Garth Nix

This fourth book of the Old Kingdom series is actually a prequel and finds Clariel, on the brink of a marriage to the King, discovering deep magic powers of her own just as she began to believe that it was magic itself that was evil. Yet, now can she not use her powers to save her kingdom from the dangerous creature that threatens her city and her future?

Endgame: The Calling by James Frey

For thousands of years, players have been training for the Endgame, the time when the founders of humanity return and challenge each of the other twelve cultures to the ultimate test.  The test is here and Endgame has begun.

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

After the 5th Wave, only a small percentage of the earth’s humans remain. But the Others have a plan and it definitely doesn’t include Cassie and her friends.  But maybe the Others haven’t seen yet what the humans are willing to do to survive.

Bait by Alex Sanchez

Diego can’t seem to control his anger and now he’s in trouble with the law. A probation officer works to penetrate Diego’s defenses and help him navigate the territory between past and future, victim and perpetrator, normal, weird, and maybe just plain happy.

bait

Boyfriends with Girlfriends by Alex Sanchez

Gay? Straight? Bisexual? Society makes those distinctions seem so obvious but it doesn’t always seem that way when real feelings are at stake. Sanchez is the master at knowing and expressing what ‘questioning’ really means to a teenager and telling a good story at the same time.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

A dangerous fever killed most of its victims but left a few with strange and dangerous powers.  An inquisition seeks to destroy them. An underground organization seeks to find them and bring them together. Adelina, maybe the most powerful Young Elite of all, has to figure out which battle to fight and who she wants to win.

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

‘Hank’ remembers nothing of his past but, through a journey to Thoreau’s Walden Pond, he seeks to recover the pieces and assemble them in a way that may allow him to move forward again.

Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

New Teen Reads

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

Luc gets an opportunity to escape the terrible foster home where he has lived since his mother died when ‘the Prof’ comes to town and hires Luc to help him research the chimpanzees who live in the Gabonese forest, discovering that their survival and his may well be linked.

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

Hunter and Jen are members of a focus group charged with picking out shoes that are cool. But their job becomes a lot more complicated when their boss disappears and they head out on a quest to reveal the underside of the consumer culture.

So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

Finn’s life has never been his own,  his mother dying in an accident that also injured him, his father using Finn and his epilepsy to sell millions of novels, even his best friend more interesting than he is. But a girl’s attention,  along with a road trip, change everything as Finn sets out to find himself.

100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

BZRK Apocalypse by Michael Grant

This book is the finale to the gripping series that pits Noah and Sadie against the insane forces of BRZK. Death doesn’t even scare them anymore, but madness certainly does and everything is at stake – in the nano and the macro – and destined to be brought to a gripping conclusion.

BZRK Apocalypse by Michael Grant

Letting Ana Go by Anonymous

This is the diary of a regular girl who spirals down into the clutches of anorexia and self-hatred. The impulses in that direction are far less blatant than one might think and that subtlety makes this story especially real, the results all the more heart-breaking.

Letting Ana Go by Anonymous

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Cricket is enchanted by the opportunity to spend the summer with the perfect Clayton family and dreams of lazy days with her best friend and romance with a formerly unattainable boy. But a tragedy drives Cricket and her friend Jules apart, forcing Cricket to reassess what is most important to her.

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

Leah Kurtz’s entire life is a lie but, if she tells the truth, she will lose Chris, the only person who has ever made her feel worth something. But soon, her former life catches up with her, the results saved (of course) for the sequel.

Leap of Faith by Jamie Blair

Lailah by Nikki Kelly

A girl knows she’s different. She comes back from the dead. She has no family. But she doesn’t know what or who she is until she meets an injured vampire who claims he is hoping to discover his humanity. Which side is light and which is dark, what is good and what is evil? Can Lailah figure it out and decide which way she wants to go? First in a series.

Lailah by Nikki Kelly

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

The world Michael lives in has melded the technology of gaming with everyday life. But someone has taken the process even one step further, trapping people in the gaming world and making their experiences there ‘real.’ They need to be stopped and only someone with Michael’s hacker skills can do the job.

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

After witnessing a murder, Valentina no longer knows who to trust. She flees to Montreal in hopes of building a new life for herself but her old life comes calling and Valentina has to find her own truth before it’s too late.

Kiss Kill Vanish by Jessica Martinez

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Annabel’s life seems perfect until she makes a mistake that gets her ostracized by family and friends. Her isolation leads her to Owen who, though isolated, has found ways to control his anger and make his life meaningful, lessons Annabel is anxious to learn.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

Wren has always been a people pleaser but now, at the end of her high school career, she is determined to do things differently. And maybe she will when she and Charlie, who has loved her since forever, discover the courage to truly be themselves.

The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

New Young Adult Books You Won’t Want to Miss

Redeemed:  A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

This is the final installment of the series in which the vampyres and mortal police are pitted against the ever-more-powerful forces of darkness for nothing less than control of the world.

Redeemed

Snitch by Olivia Samms

In this second book of a series, we find Bea recovering from addiction and straining at the bit to move on with her life even as she fears what the future might hold. In the meantime, she helps her friend Dan, a police officer, using her special powers to ‘read’ and then ‘draw’ the inner thoughts of others, to solve a heinous crime.

Snitch by Olivia Samms

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

The title says it all as Shane manages his life, loves, joys and frustrations in the face of spinal muscular atrophy.

Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

The powerful combination of Doctorow’s storytelling and Wang’s illustrations pull us directly into the worlds of Anda whose gaming addiction brings her face to face with the realities of poverty and inequality in the real world.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox

This graphic novel treatment of the canine heroes of history tells the real-life stories of dogs serving as rescuers, messengers, scouts, search-and-rescue, sentries, mascots and, maybe most of all, true friends to boys and men as they navigate the horrors of war.

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Written in verse, this novel explores the struggles of Pattyn to make sense of her father’s rages, her strict Mormon religion and her blossoming interest in a boy who seems to care for her, and for whom she takes a risk with tragic consequences.

Burned by Ellen Hopkins

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

Following up on the characters introduced in Burned,  Smoke finds Pattyn is on the run, having left Jackie behind to fend for herself with their uninvolved mother, their intensely controlling religious community and memories of the abuse at their father’s hand,  among other things.  Running away may provide a certain type of escape but Pattyn soon learns that, out of ashes, a new life can be rekindled.

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

Sick by Tom Leveen

Brian and Chad are hiding with other students from the theatre department,  safe for now from the sickness and from the others who have been turned bloodthirsty by it. But Brian’s sister and ex-girlfriend are not so safe and the boys are determined to rescue them.

Sick by Tom Leveen

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Lexi’s younger sister Mackenzie is a pageant beauty queen and Lexi is sick and tired of being ignored and average. Her decision to do something about it sends a shockwave through her family and friends and changes everything Lexi thought about what is important.

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Program by Suzanne Young

Sloane can’t cry. If she does, someone might think she is depressed and send her to The Program, the government’s solution to rampant suicide among teens. But sadness isn’t the only thing The Program takes away and, if Sloane wants to keep her memories, and understand why she is unduly drawn to James, she’s got to stop The Program from working.

The Program by Suzanne Young

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

The story hinges on the kidnapping of Diamond but is told from multiple perspectives, all of which are offered by Diamond’s peers at the Crystal Point Dance Academy who are struggling with various types of entrapment themselves.

Panic by Sharon M. Draper

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Quincy and Biddy, having graduated from their school’s special ed program, are now roommates trying to make the transition into the ‘real’ world. Different in every way and seemingly a poor fit, the girls find that strength and understanding sometimes come from unexpected places.

Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

And these Graphic Classics:

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

The Picture of Dorian Gray and More by Oscar Wilde

The Picture of Dorian Gray and More by Oscar Wilde

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

King Lear by William Shakespeare

King Lear by William Shakespeare

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky