Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Dear Teen Me

Teen Elissa in EGHS Theatre's Twelfth Night
As I sit around contemplating my final days as a 34-year-old (I think this birthday may feel like a bigger deal than 30 did, aging-wise), it's the perfect time to reflect on my youth, right?  A perfect time for my post on the Dear Teen Me blog project--a group of YA writers who are writing letters to our teen selves. 

I've been sharing some of these amazing letters with my 8th graders because seriously, a lot of what these authors are saying should be read by teens--if only so they can laugh at our goofy perms and dated fashion.  For real, though, so many of the letters are SO honest and real and...hopeful.  Worth a read through the archives, if you've never been. 

And then, when you've finished reading all the super profound ones, you can take a look at my letter to my teen self for a bit of light-hearted reading.  Some of you may well remember me when.  :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This is Just to Say

I am reading
the books
you've been
telling me about

and which
have kept me
from blogging
and sleeping.

Forgive me--
they are so shiny
so brilliant
and I love them.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I kept a little list of all the books I read last year.  Seventy-nine books total, which is more than my goal of fifty.  It has been my aim for the last few years to start reading more intentionally--to actually seek out the books for a purpose instead of randomly reading the books that fall into my lap from the universe, and I'm happy as I look down my list to see only a small handful that feel like a waste of time.  Quite a few of them were chosen specifically because I thought I could learn from them as a writer and as a human, and quite a few of the others were chosen because they were enjoyed by people whose taste in reading I trust.

It really does seem like a lot of books, even if it makes me a bit sad that quite a few of them have already gone missing off my bookshelves at school (Saint Iggy, So Many Boys, Linger, Notes from the Teenage Underground, Full Tilt, Two Way Street, and Jellicoe Road, off the top of my head...I'm sure some will resurface as the year goes on, but it always is a little heartbreaking to see how many of my books never make it past the first reader.)

There are some really good books on this list, books that have stayed with me, books I've recommended and booktalked and pushed into people's hands.  Books that have forged connections between me and other authors.  Some of these books are printed and on the shelf, and some still only exist in document form.  Some have created happy moments of discovery for my children (*snuggles Ramona*), and some have caused a few raised eyebrows (like when I was reading Naked Lunch while getting my hair colored...)  Some have kept me up at night reading feverishly (um, Diary, Full Tilt), and quite a few have made me cry (The Sky is Everywhere, The Flying Troutmans, Everything Beautiful, Jellicoe Road, Waiting for Normal) or laugh (Youth in Revolt, Then We Came to the End, Be More Chill).  Many of them have created fascinating and well-crafted worlds that continue to linger in my mind (The Unidentified, The Shadow Thieves, A Clockwork Orange, The Replacement). 

All of them make me happy to be a reader.  :)

1. A Certain Slant of Light, by Laura Whitcomb
2. Saint Iggy, by K.L. Going
3. Youth in Revolt, by C.D. Payne
4. Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
5. The Naughty List, by Suzanne Young
6. The Realm of Possibility, by David Levithan
7. Shiver, by Maggie Stiefvater
8. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte
9. The God Box, by Alex Sanchez
10. Some Girls Are, by Courtney Summers
11. Put Out More Flags, by Evelyn Waugh
12. The Lottery, by Beth Goobie
13. World War Z, by Max Brooks
14. How to Be Good, by Nick Hornby
15. The Castle of Crossed Destinies, by Italo Calvino
16. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt (reread)
17. An Acceptable Time, by Madeleine L'Engle
18. Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell
19. The Giver, by Lois Lowry (reread)
20. On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (read aloud to kids)
21. Be More Chill, by Ned Vizzini
22. Impossible, by Nancy Werlin
23. Full Tilt, by Neal Shusterman
24. Spanking Shakespeare, by Jake Wizner
25. waiting for normal, by Leslie Connor
26. Schooled, by Gordon Korman
27. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson (reread, readaloud to class)
28. Two Way Street, by Lauren Barnholdt
29. The Gum Thief, by Douglas Coupland
30. Heist Society, by Ally Carter
31. Mothers and Other Liars, by Amy Bourret
32. Posing Strange, by Amy Danziger Ross (rereread, beta)
33. Fishboy, by Hannah Moskowitz (beta)
34. Ramona the Brave, by Beverly Cleary (read aloud to kids)
35. Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris
36. Everything Beautiful, by Simmone Howell (reread)
37. Notes from the Teenage Underground, by Simmone Howell
38. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume (read aloud to kids)
39. Fool, by Christopher Moore
40. Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta
41. Girlfriend in a Coma, by Douglas Coupland
42. So Many Boys, by Suzanne Young
43. Beezus and Ramona, by Beverly Cleary (read aloud to kids)
44. Peeled, by Joan Bauer
45. Diary, by Chuck Palahniuk
46. The Rules of Survival, by Nancy Werlin
47. hush, hush, by Becca Fitzpatrick
48. A Good Boy is Hard to Find, by Suzanne Young
49. Naked Lunch, by William S. Burroughs
50. The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson
51. Superfudge, by Judy Blume (read aloud to kids)
52. Polaroids from the Dead, by Douglas Coupland
53. The Flying Troutmans, by Miriam Toews
54. The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han
55. The River, by Gary Paulsen
56. Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater
57. Fudge-A-Mania, by Judy Blume (read aloud to kids)
58. Owls in the Family, by Farley Mowat (read aloud to kids, as prep for teaching it)
59. Death Benefits, by Sarah N. Harvey
60. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare
61. The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff
62. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
63. Ramona and her Father, by Beverly Cleary (read aloud to kids)
64. The Daily 5: Fostering Literacy Independence in the Elementary Grades, by Gail Boushey and Joan Moser
65. The Shadow Thieves, by Anne Ursu
66. The Unidentified, by Rae Mariz
67. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
68. City of Ashes, By Cassandra Clare
69. Septimus Heap #2: Flyte, by Angie Sage
70. You Were Wrong, by Matthew Sharpe
71. Ramona and Her Mother, by Beverly Cleary (read aloud to kids)
72. Somewhere in the Darkness, by Walter Dean Myers (reread, teaching to 8th graders)
73. Guys Read: Funny Business, edited by Jon Scieszka
74. City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare
75. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
76. Point Counterpoint, by Aldous Huxley
77. Forged by Fire, by Sharon M. Draper
78. Slam, by Walter Dean Myers
79. Small Steps, by Louis Sachar

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Aiming high...goals for 2011

As I wrote yesterday, 2010 was a year of writing successes beyond my wildest imaginings.  I'm going to set more goals for my writing for 2011, but what I think I've discovered over the last year or two is that, for me...even when I try to stop writing because life is too busy and my children are too sweet and my job is too important or whatever reasons...I still need to write.  Stories come to me in sparkly pen in my journal.  I start blogging without a clue what I'm doing.  I begin a new novel while in the midst of the most stressful month of my life.  I feel like I can't stop writing, even if I wanted to.  So I'm going to set a few writing goals this year, but then I'm going to turn my attention to the other parts of my life, too.

So first.  WRITING.  In a recent twitter chat about goals, I posted this:

I'd like to relax and enjoy the next year as I go through the process of getting book pubbed instead of stressing about future.
 I think this is important.  I've never done this before, and I need to remember that it's exciting--not terrifying!  EXCITING!  Sure, there are a million things to think about and as many mistakes I could make, and sure, it's important to learn as much about how to have a successful book launch as possible, but hey.  This is my dream, and I want to focus on enjoying this next year of preparation--to be excited about the present, about the experience--instead of worrying about the future, about my writing career, about what reviewers will say, about how my mom will react...just enjoy it.  So there's my number one goal for Writing 2011.

Here are the rest of the writing goals:

Revise Cassandra WIP to the point of it being ready to go on sub
This is do-able, as long as Sarah agrees.  I already have a lot of ideas about how to revise it and just need the time and the ability to focus on this book.

 Finish first draft of In the Hanging Shack and see where that leads.
I'm about halfway through this right now and have a pretty good outline of the end, so I'm hopeful about this goal.  I've never written MG before, but I do love to read it, and I've never written a suspenseful/scary story before, but I do like the idea of pushing myself and my writing always in new directions.

And now, some goals involving reading:
I'd like to read at least 50 books in 2011, with at least 10 of those being books written for adults, and at least 5 out loud with the kids.  I'd like to read some new authors and some books that will challenge me and influence my thinking and my writing. 
 And then some goals involving life:

Take a road trip with the family.  My goal is all the way out to Oregon, but I'd settle for something smaller.
 That one is essential.

Do something all alone that makes me nervous to do all alone.

I'm not sure what this one will involve, but I know the steps I've taken in life that have been the most rewarding are ones that involved me taking a solo risk, it is!

Draw something.  That's all.  Just DRAW SOMETHING.

I used to draw all the time, and then suddenly I stopped.  Sure, I still draw goofy things on the SmartBoard for my classes, or occasionally for my kids, but I'd like to draw something during 2011 that I either give away as a gift or hang on the wall.  IT'S OKAY IF IT'S MEDIOCRE, ELISSA.

So there.  I'm ready for you, 2011!