Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

Hey all, 

I'm here with the Teens Can Write, Too, blog chain. This month's question is  “What is something you feel is generally written well in fiction? What is something you feel is generally written poorly?”

This is going to be fun.

First, "What's something generally written-well in fiction?"

Am I the only one who is pretty much done reading stories about writers? I am a writer, but I honestly don’t want to read about a fictional one’s struggle with writer’s block, or dreams to get published, or, worst of all, their brilliant but misunderstood novel.

Maybe it’s just me. But I think we’re pretty well covered in the writers-writing-about-writers camp. Please move on to something else.

For the second half of the question, “What do you think is generally not well done in fiction?” I’m going to expand a bit on the example given in the original post. While I agree that religion often appears in literature, I believe its numerous portrayals could be more diverse and nuanced, rather than falling into stereotypical categories.

A few stereotypes for your enjoyment:

  •  Corny, sinple-minded religious person (TIFIOS)
  • Perverted, creepy religious person (The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavander, The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
  • Hypocritical, closed-minded religious person (Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, Noggin, Paper Towns)

I’m not here to critique these stereotypes, or even debate their truth. However, I am concerned that religion as a whole is the one subject no longer tolerated in an otherwise open-minded literary world. As far as I know, inspirational fiction is the only genre that has been ghettoized as in its own market, separate from the general market, with its own authors, publishers, and audience. I mean no disrespect--the market itself isn't bad--but the fact that religious fiction more and more is being de facto censored from the mainstream market troubles me. I recall reading a Goodreads comment on one of Fransisco X. Stork’s books complaining because it even mentioned religion, and so was unreadable.  

These opinions don’t bode well for a world in which books help expand our minds to other life experiences and points of view, even those we don’t agree with. LGBT books shouldn't just be read by LGBT readers. Nor, I believe, should religious books be read only by the religious.

Now, to be fair, the burden is as much on religious authors to make their books more accessible to a nonreligious audience by writing with them in mind, but as a writer fascinated by questions of religion in fiction, I hope for a literary community willing to explore these questions with me not only in religious contexts, but in the mainstream market as well.

So if you, like me, are interested in well-rounded characters grappling with the tough yet meaningful question of religion (or well-rounded characters in general), check out these awesome authors:

Sara Zarr (What We Lost)
Han Nolan (When We Were Saints, Send Me Down a Miracle)
Gene Luen Yang (American-Born Chinese, Boxers & Saints)
Dana Reinhardt (A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life)

Now be sure to check out the rest of the chain:

29th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Stress Words (with Quiz)

As finals week approaches for all you college students out there, I thought I’d share some favorite “stress words”—that is, words that as a writer you can stress over to no end without ever deciding which one is best. To help take the pressure off, here’s a mini-exam that’s less pass-fail and more Choose Your Own Adventure.

The word(s) of the day is Someone/Somebody

 Grammatically interchangeable, not even an English handbook will help you with this one. Somebody connotes a body, perhaps

a).  The victim of a gruesome crime

b). a dead body washed ashore by the tide

c). an anesthetized patient on the operating table

d). an unnamed soldier carried by his comrade across a battlefield


Someone emphasizes a person’s “oneness,” meaning they are:

a). A loved one

b). A pantheist

c). The chosen one

d). Completely unique

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First Official Payment

This just came in the mail. It's my first official payment from a literary magazine, for the short story I had published on the Tin House Open Bar.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sea Turtle with Prosthetics

      Yu, a loggerhead sea turtle in Japan, was just fitted with her first-ever fully-functional set of prosthetic flippers!

A loggerhead sea turtle (not Yu) that we saw at a hospital
in North Carolina.

      Yu, just like Caretta, the loggerhead from my novel, lost both her front flippers in an accident. Scientists worked relentlessly to develop a prosthetic that would perform all the functions necessary of turtle flippers, including swimming and crawling on land. The community around where she was rescued rallied around to help support the research that made her recovery possible.

     To learn more, check out this link:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gold Key in Scholastic Writing Award

I just found out I recieved a regional gold key in the Scholastic Art & Writing AwardI'll now be entered in the national competition.

Some contests you enter without much trouble. Others you worry over, writing for days on end, over thinking every letter until you realize no two words you write sound good together. Then you settle, and send it in, and figure you might as well get on with something else. You forget about that contest you entered--no, really. You never think about it, getting your hopes up when you know it will probably come to nothing. Yeah.

Anyway. I'm really grateful for this opportunity, and for all the people who made it possible. Thank you, Scholastic! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Release of "My One Square Inch of Alaska"

     Last year I went to the Antioch Writer's Workshop, a weeklong writing conference. They also host second Sunday free writing workshops throughout the year. Board member Sharon Short just released a new book, "My One Square Inch of Alaska."

     Here's the description from Amazon:  A pair of siblings escapes—along with a Siberian Husky—the strictures of their 1950s industrial Ohio town on the adventure of a lifetime.

Talented high-school senior Donna Lane yearns to leave her Midwestern home in pursuit of a career in design, but she feels obligated to stay and care for her helpless father and her younger brother, Will. In fragile health and obsessed with the television show Sergeant Striker and the Alaskan Wild, Will’s dearest companion is a mute Siberian Husky named Trusty. The arrival of two outsiders inspires Donna to consider her dreams anew. Then Will falls sick, and Donna packs up their yellow convertible—with Will, Trusty, and a road atlas—and sets off for the Alaskan Territory. A portrait of a singular American moment, My One Square Inch of Alaska is a moving tale of exploration and love—human and canine—that dares to believe the impossible.

      Check it out. It's great for book clubs, with discussion questions in the back. Happy reading!