Thursday, September 26, 2013

Past & Present Southern Voices of YA Literature

In November, I will be on a panel at the ALAN Conference called, "Past and Present Southern Voices of YA Literature." Other panel members are Alan Gratz, Beth Revis, and Myra McEntire. The panel will be moderated by Professor Joan Kaywell from the University of South Florida.

Dr. Kaywell says that the first Southern author of YA Literature is Sue Ellen Bridgers. As part of my conference prep, I just read Sue Ellen's book ALL TOGETHER NOW, published by Knopf in 1979. I enjoyed this book very much. Its many honors include: The Christopher Award, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, National Book Award Finalist, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and an ALA Notable Book.

Reading ALL TOGETHER NOW caused me to reflect on how YA Literature has changed. The book is written in third person, and the grownups don't take a backseat. Twelve-year-old Casey Flanagan goes to stay with her grandparents for the summer because her dad is a pilot in the Korean War. There is a subplot that deals with the romance and wedding of a fifty-year-old couple. Ms. Bridgers even writes a chapter devoted to their ill-fated honeymoon with nary a teenager in sight.

I really came to care about all of the characters in the book, the grownups, as well as Casey herself. My one conundrum is classifying this novel as YA. I can't think of a recently published YA book in which the grownups play more than a nominal part. After reading ALL TOGETHER NOW, I'm not sure that's a good thing. Maybe we're underestimating teens by not providing a more realistic portrayal of family life. What do you think?

Friday, September 20, 2013

REAL REVISION by Kate Messner

I won a copy of REAL REVISION at a writing workshop. The timing couldn't have been better since I'm in the middle of revising a novel, tentatively titled, FAR FROM PERFECT.

Kate Messner writes, "When I'm revising one of my novels for young readers, I ask myself one question over and over again: What is this piece really about?"I read that sentence at exactly the right time in my revision. I was struggling with a subplot, asking myself whether it should stay or go.

Kate continues, "Asking that question repeatedly--What is this piece really about?--always helps me through the revision process because I can decide what to work on, what to keep or delete, and what to develop more thoroughly."

My subplot had to go and the manuscript is more cohesive because of it.

I highly recommend Kate Messner's book for teachers looking for ways to teach revision in the classroom, but it's also useful for writers in need of practical revision tips.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


My agent, Deborah Warren at East/West Literary will be presenting at SCBWI Alaska's Midnight Sun Conference on September 6th and 7th. As part of her presentation, I was asked for a quote, something that I learned along the way, but wish I had known at the start of my writing journey. Here's the advice I provided:

Not every critique is created equal. Listen to feedback with an open mind. Take notes. Give yourself a couple of days to digest what was offered, but in the end, it's your story. Only make changes that feel right to you.

Deborah will also be using THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL in a workshop as an example of strong first page voice. I am honored that she's showcasing my book.

In other news, I will be traveling to Boston on November 25th and 26th for the ALAN Conference. I will be part of a panel called, Past and Present Southern Voices of YA Literature.

From Alaska to Boston that Jessie Pearl is a travelin' girl!