• My TBR pick #3: Alisha Sevigny’s KISSING FROGS

     My third and final pick for my GMMG summer TBR list is Alisha Sevigny’s Kissing Frogs – and I sort of cheated on the TBR part and started reading it already. And you should, too. Here’s the official summary from Goodreads: Popular party girl and high school senior Jessica Scott has a secret: she used(…)

  • My TBR Pick #2: Rachel Schieffelbein’s DON’T FALL

     My second pick for my GMMG TBR summer reading list is Rachel Schieffelbein’s DON’T FALL, a YA update of the Rapunzel story that sounds too good to miss. And isn’t the cover gorgeous? Here’s the Goodreads summary: In which a teenage girl endures the over-protective love of her adoptive mother until she falls for a(…)

  • TBR Pick #1

     Everyone I know has a TBR – “To Be Read” – list at least a mile long. I’m no exception, and it seems especially distressing to me to have so many books from my own publisher that I am trying to get to. So this week, some of my fellow Swoon Romance/Month 9 Books/Georgia McBride(…)

  • the SNARK world IRL!

     I’m finally on Instagram, and if you go there and look up me, @stephaniewardrop, or #snarkandcircumstance, you can see photos of the locations that inspired many of the scenes in the SNARK AND CIRCUMSTANCE  e-novella series and its book-length sequel, SNARK AND STAGE FRIGHT. Fortunately, I live in a town that bears a striking resemblance(…)

  • What I learned from teaching a YA writing class

     Last semester I got to teach the first-ever class on writing YA fiction at my western Massachusetts university, and I learned a lot from it. It wasn’t technically a “creative writing” class but a “special topics in English” class, which made it sort of a weird hybrid lit/writing class more than the traditional fiction workshop(…)

My TBR pick #3: Alisha Sevigny’s KISSING FROGS 0

22836302 My third and final pick for my GMMG summer TBR list is Alisha Sevigny’s Kissing Frogs – and I sort of cheated on the TBR part and started reading it already. And you should, too.

Here’s the official summary from Goodreads:

Popular party girl and high school senior Jessica Scott has a secret: she used to be a nerd — a big one; a goody two-shoes, grade-skipping, all-state spelling bee champ. But she lost the braces, put on some contacts, and applied all her academic genius to studying and imitating the social elite. Now she rules the school from the upper echelon of the high school realm. With her cool new friends and hottest-guy-in-school boyfriend, life’s a beach — and that’s where she’s headed for Spring Break. That is, until her teacher breaks the bad news that she’s failing Biology — and her only chance to make up the grade is to throw away the culminating trip of her hard-earned popularity and join the Conservation Club in Panama to save the Golden Frog.

Unable to let go of her faded college dreams, Jess finds herself in a foreign country with a new social crew, and one handsome face that stands out as a blast from the past, threatening to ruin her queen bee reputation. Travis Henley may have grown up, but he still likes to play childish games and as payment for retrieving Jess’ lost ring from the bottom of a jungle pool, he wants three dates. While Jess does battle with spiders, snakes, wildfires and smart mean girls, she desperately tries to hang on to the last vestiges of her popular existence like the Golden Frog from its webbed toe. But as she starts to care about something more than tanning and texting – a species on the verge of disappearing forever – she may realize the worth of her inner nerd, and the one frog in particular that could be her prince in disguise.

Set in the lush and tropical El Valle de Anton, this modern fairytale re-imagining of “The Frog Prince” is toe-curling contemporary romance with an environmentalist heartbeat, in the tradition of Stephanie Perkins.

Here is what others are saying about the book on Amazon and Goodreads:

  • “I adored Travis. He’s smart and attractive and funny and passionate. It’s easy to see why any girl would be smitten with him. I felt that all of the characters had unique voices that were brought to the table, and I got attached to most of them for different reasons. Jessica’s new `nerd’ friend Harp, for instance, is absolutely adorable and I wish I had a friend that sweet.”
  • “One of the great things about Kissing Frogs – the protagonist is smart enough to know a good thing when she sees it. Although she’s upset about missing out on a vacation with her friends, is wary of touching frogs, and initially doesn’t recognize the importance of conversation, Jess tries to make the best of her situation. She’s a smart girl and an overall good person. It’s a nice change from the books where popular characters are either stuck-up, ditzy, or bitchy.”
  • “Such a great book, well written, great pace with fully rounded characters – loved the vivid imagery Miss Sevigny paints and I cant wait for her next offering – definitely a must read for all ages.

And check out this video in which Alisha talks about her inspiration for the book!

Happy reading, everyone!

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My TBR Pick #2: Rachel Schieffelbein’s DON’T FALL 1

22399053 My second pick for my GMMG TBR summer reading list is Rachel Schieffelbein’s DON’T FALL, a YA update of the Rapunzel story that sounds too good to miss. And isn’t the cover gorgeous?

Here’s the Goodreads summary:

In which a teenage girl endures the over-protective love of her adoptive mother until she falls for a boy who has her wanting to spread her wings, pitched as a contemporary retelling of Rapunzel.

Seventeen-year-old Anya leads a very secluded life in a house on the edge of town with her adopted mother. She doesn’t go to school, but instead has a private tutor. Her over-protective mom keeps her so sheltered that she doesn’t even have a best friend.

But Anya doesn’t seem to mind. She has her books, her photography, and her daydreams, and would do anything to please her mom. Until one day at the library, the only place she’s allowed to go, she takes a picture of a beautiful boy.

Before long she’s lying to her mom, and sneaking out late at night to meet Zander. But Zander wants more than a secret romance. If Anya wants to be with the boy of her dreams, she will have to risk her relationship with the only other person she’s ever cared about.

Sounds pretty good, right? Here’s what readers are saying on GoodReads and Amazon:

  • “What to say? It’s fun and lighthearted and a magical kind of romance, everything a fairy tale inspired book should be. It’s swoon worthy and fast paced and I just loved every minute of it, especially the similarities to Rapunzel in this contemporary magic free book.”
  • “It was so interesting seeing the split in emotions that Don’t Fall made me feel. I would go from being so happy with a goofy grin on my face watching Zander and Anya get closer and closer, to feeling so sad for Anya when I would watch her get locked away at home again. Every time she tried to speak to her mother she was met with `no’s’ and stony silence. Her mother would not even discuss anything except expecting a complete devotion to her `rules.'”
  • “Everyone needs a book like this. Feel-good and sigh-worthy romance. Everything is just gorgeous. The cover (come on, just look at that), the characters (dual POV’s but I feel connected to both of them) and the Romance.”

Especially if you like fairy tales and fantasy, you’ll want to check this one out.

Happy reading!

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TBR Pick #1 3

imgres Everyone I know has a TBR – “To Be Read” – list at least a mile long. I’m no exception, and it seems especially distressing to me to have so many books from my own publisher that I am trying to get to. So this week, some of my fellow Swoon Romance/Month 9 Books/Georgia McBride Media Group are sharing their Summer GMMG TBR lists.

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Today’s pick is IRIS ST CLAIR’S LOUDER THAN WORDS. Here is the official Goodreads summary of the book, which should give you a good idea of why I need to read this one (and why you do, too):

Disappointment has been on speed dial in Ellen Grayson’s life lately. Her dad died, her mom numbs the grief with drugs and alcohol, and her so-called friends have slowly abandoned her.

Trusting a popular teacher with her troubles should have been safe and should NOT have led to an unwelcome seduction attempt that made her desperate to escape the final moments of Junior year. Lesson learned. Best to keep all the sordid details to herself and trust no one.

Enter Rex Jacobi, a cocky boy, recently transplanted from New York City and fellow summer camp employee. Though his quick wit and confidence draws her in, she can’t let him get too close. And summer is just long enough and hot enough to keep a boy like that at arm’s length.

But by the time Rex’s charm wears down her resistance, it’s too late. He’s put Ellen on the “just friends” shelf and has shifted his romantic attentions to the impossibly annoying and perky anti-Ellen. Even worse, the teacher who tried to get her to sleep with him is still at it, preying on other girls while Ellen struggles to come to terms with what happened.

With her ability to trust as shaky as a chastity vow on prom night, Ellen must decide if she has enough remaining courage to speak up about the well-liked teacher and risk retribution, tell Rex how she really feels about him and risk heartbreak, or hold all her secrets inside. After all, it’s the only safe place she knows when the only thing louder than words is the fear of being rejected.

And here’s what her readers are saying on Amazon and Goodreads:

  • “If you’re looking for something that feels real, that binds you to the main character and reveling in her cynicism, even as her closet romantic teen tries to shine through, this just might be the perfect book. Louder than Love accurately captures the voice and thoughts of high school girl caught up in family drama, real world disappointment, and first love.”
  • “This is one of the most romantic and moving book I’ve ever read. I kid you not. Surprised is an understatement.”
  • “This is one of those young adult novels I didn’t want to end because as soon as I finished it, I missed the characters. Ellen Grayson is so multi-dimensional, she very nearly becomes a living breathing person. There’s a lot going on with her, in addition to longing for new boy, Rex Jacobi, she’s dealing with her father’s death and her mother’s spiral into drug addiction. If it wasn’t for her devoted older brother, she’d be in foster care. She has body image issues, only a handful of friends because she pushed everyone else away, and her favorite teacher put the moves on her. Like many teens in her situation, she harbors guilt, humiliation, and about a dozen other things as a result of her teacher’s behavior and keeps the incident a secret, hoping to put it behind her.”

And if all of this doesn’t convince you, check out the book trailer on Goodreads, too.

Happy Reading!

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the SNARK world IRL! 0

imgres I’m finally on Instagram, and if you go there and look up me, @stephaniewardrop, or #snarkandcircumstance, you can see photos of the locations that inspired many of the scenes in the SNARK AND CIRCUMSTANCE  e-novella series and its book-length sequel, SNARK AND STAGE FRIGHT. Fortunately, I live in a town that bears a striking resemblance (in name, as well) to Georgia Barrett’s Longbourne. Unfortunately, I am not a great photographer, but I’m learning because I have (1) recently become kind of obsessed with the work of Mary-Ellen Mark* and (2) my main character in my new WIP wants to be a documentary photographer.

Here’s a little taste of “Longbourne, Massachusetts” and a house very much like Michael’s historic home: images-2 I haven’t found anyone with a pool like his, anywhere on the planet, actually, and certainly not one where I can jump the fence and photograph it before alarms go off :). But I remain vigilant, because a good kissing scene deserves to be commemorated.

So check me out on Instagram! I’ll follow you back, especially if you have cool photos and images of adorable animals. I am a big fan of @it’sdougthepug.

What I’m reading:

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what I’m listening to:

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* I have a Mary-Ellen Mark board on Pinterest if you want to see some of her work. You already know it, probably, but just don’t know it.

What I learned from teaching a YA writing class 0

tumblr_mvao3seKTa1qh59n0o2_500 Last semester I got to teach the first-ever class on writing YA fiction at my western Massachusetts university, and I learned a lot from it. It wasn’t technically a “creative writing” class but a “special topics in English” class, which made it sort of a weird hybrid lit/writing class more than the traditional fiction workshop class. It also meant that most of the students were not writers or dreaming of becoming writers. But by the end of the semester, some of them decided they just might be writers after all and promised to keep at it, promised that I couldn’t stop them from writing even if I wanted to. And I don’t. So

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One of the things I like most about teaching is that I’m always learning new things, and this class was no exception. In fact, I learned more from this course, probably, than any other I’ve taught in the past few years and here is

 THE CURMUDGEONLY VERSION OF WHAT I LEARNED:

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I said above that most of the students were not “writers” in the sense that they would not identify themselves as such. Most of them were not readers, either, even the creative writing majors. I knew that since the class was specialized by “genre” (YA), not everyone would be well read in that genre, but I was a little disheartened to learn how many of them did not read anything at all. I had them read excerpts from a variety of YA texts, focusing on different aspects to examine within them, such as narration, dialogue, establishing time and place, etc. and most of them really got into what I had them read. At the end of the course, though, someone’s evaluation still indicated that I had only assigned these excerpts “just to make [them] read.”  I’m just mean like that, I guess.

I don’t really understand why anyone who doesn’t love to read would want to become a writer, and I’ve noticed this before among some of my school’s undergraduate creative writing majors. I’ll just say here and now that I think that reading is at least 85% of a writer’s job. At least. And I’ll stop there because I’ve talked about that elsewhere on this blog.

I will say, however, that one benefit of reading things other people have written is that you can see how text is supposed to be formatted. It goes in chunks called “paragraphs” and dialogue is marked usually by quotation marks. These rules were not just set by some creativity-hating overlord to mess with budding young geniuses. These rules help your ideas to be understood by other people. And if you want to be understood by other readers, you’ll have to learn the basic rules. Editors won’t do it for you.

And now, the SHINY HAPPY AFFIRMING STUFF I LEARNED:

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It was absolutely inspiring and invigorating to see people who never thought they could do a thing – let alone like doing a thing – find themselves freed by it. I can say without hesitation that everyone in that room had at least one very, very good idea for a scene or a story that could turn into something great.  The self-identified creative writers were forced to write in a different way or on a different topic than what they usually wrote and though some of them balked at it, they came up with some stuff that they admitted they didn’t know they had in them. And the “science” people discovered a whole new dimension to themselves and a whole new outlet of expression. At least twice this semester I considered learning how to become an agent to take on some of these kids as my clients. One student even got a short story published in an upcoming anthology that I suggested she submit to. The punctuation, the paragraphs, the formatting – anyone can learn all of that (and they’ll have to if they ever want anyone outside of a classroom to read their work). As long as the passion and the ideas are there, there’s hope. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling like Kanye every now and then

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Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you say it. And having these students share with me what they’re discovering they have to say – that was a gift.

What I’m reading 

imgres (I still have only one working eye, so I have to comb the large print section of the library. And please excuse the typos! I can’t tell a semi-colon from a colon onscreen).

What I’m listening to

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I’ll be back 0

images-1 after surgery. My doctor says that I did not develop a detached retina and lose 75% of the vision in my left eye from a lifetime of eye rolling.blrg

 

But as a believer in karma and someone with only the barest knowledge of optical anatomy, I am not so sure myself. I have to sit upright 24/7 for at least a week and I can’t watch tv or read for more than half an hour. So I raced to finish Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us with my one good eye before surgery tomorrow morning and I recommend that you read it, too. Under better circumstances.

imgres-1   See you soon! (did you catch what I did there?)

Blogfest Beach Bucket Giveaway! 0

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I’m on My Crazy Corner’s Annual Romance Blogfest today, talking beaches, Snark, and romance, and I’ll be giving away a big beach bucket of fun.  Check me  out at Apryl Baker’s superfab blog all of this month:

My Crazy Corner’s Blogfest

and see who else is dropping by here! So think of your favorite beach or beach read and enter to win.  Good luck!

The books you will live in 0

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I got my love of reading from my mom and dad, and my mom got hers from my grandfather. who could read the same Zane Grey novel 57 times and enjoy each round of rereading as much as the first one until his eyesight began to fail him. Now 96 and virtually blind, he cannot read a book even if it were printed on a series of billboards, and of all the things he has lost to the ravages of time, I think the loss of books runs a close sending to the loss of my grandmother.

A few weeks ago, my aunt went to visit him in his eldercare home because he had suddenly seemed to lose touch with reality – he wasn’t able to recognize his own daughter. While he’s ostensibly better, for now, he still insists he hears horses being whipped in the basement and gunplay outside his room. The nurses are baffled by this, but it makes sense to my mom and me: he’s now living part-time in the Westerns he loved, and that’s a bittersweet thing. My other grandfather had such Alzheimer’s-induced confusion by the end of his life he was living in his own world. And I had never, in my whole life, seen him happier.

But on another level, as a writer and lover of fiction, I understand this. Who among us hasn’t wanted, at times, to ditch the real world for a fictional one? Living in a pleasant fictive world for the last years of my life, when I’ve lost the ability to live anywhere else very well, might be a pleasant and gentle transition into whatever happens next.

This got me to wondering where today’s YA readers will “reside” when they reach the point where they cannot distinguish between fantasy and reality any more.  Where will their reading take them? Will a generation of oldsters leap – or to attempt to – from their rockers, convinced that vampires and werewolves are lurking in the halls of the old folks’ home? Will they scream in their sleep like Peeta and Katniss, haunted by the memories of the Hunger Games, images so real to them they feel like their own memories? Will someone who fell in love with the classics hear the tinkling of glass in a smart gin and tonic or the strains of a Scott Joplin rag from the party downstairs as they gaze seemingly mindlessly into their closet looking for all of Jay Gatsby’s beautiful shirts? Maybe. There are worse places to be. I hope, if this is my fate, too, that I’ve done enough varied reading to end up “living” somewhere good. I would hate to think some short circuit in my brain sends me to some crap novel I read too many times and not a Regency country home in Austenland. Maybe the fact that I can’t even remember the names of these crap novels will keep me safe – they must not have taken a very deep root in my unconscious.

 

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If you had some control over which book you would live in in your twilight years, what would it be? Who would be your companions? What fictive world would you choose to inhabit? 

Drop me a line and let me know wear you would (mentally) spent your last days, part-time, if you could (in addition to the bosom of your loving and healthy family and friends, of course).

What I’m listening to

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What I’m reading

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Writing with both sides of your brain 0

image from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-m-eger/right-brain-left-brain-thinking_b_2631704.html

image from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-m-eger/right-brain-left-brain-thinking_b_2631704.html

 

Twenty years ago, as a grad student in literature and composition, I felt like I was fighting my right brain all the time. Now, as a writer, I feel like I’m fighting to get it back. Lots of times the two hemispheres just butt heads until they wind up in an angry hissy ball, like these guys.

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It’s not productive at all.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer,  but some time toward the end of my college years, it occurred to me that I would have to earn a living doing something. Since I didn’t really have any idea what one did while one wrote the Great American Novel – I didn’t know how to find a garret in Paris or how to pay for one – I took the advice of some professors and went to grad school. There I had to sharpen my analytic skills, to use the left side of my brain more, to cite sources, to penetrate to the core of things and be able to explain the insights that had always just struck me intuitively. But after many years of teaching and writing academic stuff, I decided to try writing fiction again, and I was rustier than the paint cans in my basement. But it feel good to do it – that is, it felt good when I could turn off the left side of my brain and let myself just write without analyzing what I was doing as I was doing it. But too often I’d start writing about a world of magic and end up Googling string theory or the history of alchemy or I’d just beat myself up over the implausibility of what I was writing so much I’d have to stop.

For someone who has been accused most of her life of living entirely in her imagination, giphy-1

it was embarrassing and frustrating.

“GRAD SCHOOL KILLED MY CREATIVITY!” I would wail inside my own head and go back to reading student papers and circling important symbols in the texts I’d be teaching the next day.

But as I am slowly learning, it turns out that a writer needs both sides of her brain – just not at the same time.

I have to believe that any writer writes because they like the feeling of unbridled creativity, those wonderful hours (or, more likely, minutes) when the words just flow and you’re in your own world and you’re actually rendering your world on paper in a way that might might sense to someone else someday.

stimpy writer There are few feelings better than that. Enjoy them. Just write. Let your left brain go. You can always edit later.

Because that’s when your left brain gets to storm the castle: Editing/revision time. Sure, this half of your brain will look at what you’ve written a few days before and react like this

professor giphy but then it will get to figuring out what you can do to make it better. Think of your WIP as a puzzle. Right brain likes puzzles. What’s missing or what’s gone south? Lack of focus? Is a character’s motivation unclear? What detail can you add to make it more clear to someone else? As long as your right brain doesn’t get too unmerciful in its judgements, this can actually be a fun- and absolutely necessary – process. Stephen King famously said that one should write with the door closed and revised with the door open, so I guess I open the door to the left brain at revision time.

Maybe I’ll end up a more balanced human being if I figure out how all of this works, which would be a  giphy-2

pretty sweet bonus, right? But I’d settle for just being able to get a manuscript done without getting a migraine.

How do you deal with balancing the nitpick-y, judge-y part of you as you write? Please share any advice in the comments below. I love to hear from you!

what I’m reading

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what I’m listening to

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Character growth 2

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I just read a few new reviews of both Snark and Stage Fright and the original four Snark and Circumstance novellas. I am always so flattered that someone would take not just the time to read the books but to think about them and then actually write and post a review of them. And if the review is positive, well, that’s like a birthday surprise party and Christmas morning rolled into one big ball of awesome.

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And a super extra sprinkles-on-top bonus for me is if they say they like the way the characters have developed. Because I worry about that. A lot.

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My books are not exactly plot-driven. If you are looking for thrills and spills and twists and turns, then you would give the Snark series a bad review. As a writer, I start each book with a character that I hear talking me – and then I have to figure out who they are and what they are going to do. Because that’s what interests me about people: what they do. And why they do it.

On a bad day, I could be accused of being a little misanthropic.

.images But really, I like people. Mostly. And the single most awesome thing about people – and I mean “awesome” in the literal sensing of inspiring awe – is that they grow and change. Especially young adults.

Ally Sheedy is wrong here:

breakfastgiphy  Your heart (and your brain) die if you don’t grow. Can you imagine what your life would be like now if you still made the same kind of decisions you made when you were ten? Fifteen? Even twenty? I don’t even want to think about it. Because I would look like this Allie Sheedy character all the time. For the rest of my life.

Even so, I was afraid that the new vulnerable sad sack George in Snark and Stage Fright would turn people off, but fortunately most readers so far seem to have found her more “real” and likable. I knew at the end of Snark and Circumstance that Georgia had grown a lot, and in Snark and Stage Fright we see that she is more trusting of people, more able to see them as individuals instead of stereotypes (preppies, jocks, Jesus Freaks). She’s made good friends and has a pretty great boyfriend in Michael because of this new perspective, but she still can’t quite trust that she really belongs with Michael because she still sees him as so different from her. And while Michael has gotten less stuck-up and prideful, he still tends to clam up rather than communicate, so I wanted the sequel to have them continue to grow and figure this stuff out.

Because trust me: there is always stuff to work out. I don’t claim to know the meaning of life but I suspect that part of why we’re here is to learn things, and what we need to learn evolves as we do.  Just ask this kid

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Leave a comment below about your philosophy of life or, if that’s too daunting :) share your favorite characters who grow over the course of a novel or series of novels. What do they learn and what do you like about them?

What I’m reading 

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what I’m listening to 

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