Aug 1, 2013

This is WORD's last post.

Anybody who watches my Twitter feed knows that I made the decision to stop blogging on WORD about a month ago, to use July to finish up the few posts I had left that I wanted to write and to glide to a graceful stop at the beginning of this month.


 I've been blogging since 2007. I've written upwards of 1500 posts, almost all of which are either extensive reviews or detailed thoughts on posts. WORD has always been a part of my life, a huge part of everything I do. It's been with me through high school, through college applications, through high school graduation, through college orientation, through internships and the decision to double major, through my first real boyfriend and my first real breakup, through having guinea pigs to having a cat, through one bookcase to four.

And it's funny, because I started blogging by accident. I had never even thought to do it. But my mom was irritated by how much I talked about books and told me to take it to the internet.

I did. It didn't stop me from talking about it. If anything, I talk about it more. (Blogging did not work out in my mom's favor.)

Up until March I wrote posts up to five days a week - that's seven years of almost daily posts - and since I switched over to discussion only posts I've still been averaging upwards of two posts a week.

I love WORD. I'm not stopping blogging because I don't love it; I still do. There's nothing I enjoy more than filling up a post with something thoughtful, something that I know will get all of you talking, and watching as you do what you do best - talk and think and comment. And I can say that WORD has what no other website I've ever seen has: a thoughtful, interesting set of followers that has never once spread hate.

Not once. There's never been random angry comments, nobody baiting, no arguing or anything other than respectful discussion.

And I love that.

Without WORD, I can honestly say I wouldn't be the same person I am today. It guided me to what I wanted to do in my life. It helped teach me how to write better and how to read better. It opened up my eyes to a huge variety of issues. It helped me make friends.

I never wanted WORD to peter out, to disintegrate into a mess that I explained away again and again. If I was going to end WORD, I always knew I was going to do it the way I wanted: gracefully, before I stopped posting entirely and made excuses for long absences.

I'm going into my senior year in college, now. I'll be managing my award-winning school newspaper's website. I'll be working on my final project for my senior seminar, plus several personal projects that I've started over the years and put aside so I could work more on WORD. And I'll hopefully be getting a job within the publishing industry when I graduate in May.

And I'm not going anywhere, not really. I'm running YA Interrobang and I'll still be around on Twitter and both my YA and personal Tumblr, talking about books and loving books and reading books.

But it's time. And I'm okay with that.

I love you all. Expect to see me sneaking around and stalking you on Twitter.

Jul 24, 2013

YA Interrobang: a new online YA magazine.


You may have noticed that I haven't been posting here - that is, in part, due to the fact that WORD ends on August 1. (Yes, there will be a sad goodbye post, but now is now the time for that.) Now is the time for celebration!

Because on August 18, the first edition of YA Interrobang will launch for the world to see!

YA Interrobang is a new online magazine celebrating YA literature. Our goal is to connect readers to the literature and authors they love - as well as keep them updated on the news and issues that affect it!

You can find out more about it by visiting our website and clicking around to visit all of the various social media sites. Tumblr has the bios on all of our writers, and you can ask us questions there or on Twitter, and even like our super shiny Facebook page!

What would YOU like to see YA Interrobang cover?

Jul 14, 2013

Racial representation in YA lit and what Trayvon Martin has to do with it.

On Saturday, George Zimmerman was declared not guilty of shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. Despite the fact that there was all evidence to the contrary, despite the fact that Zimmerman was expressly told not to go after Martin, and despite the fact that Martin had done absolutely nothing wrong, Zimmerman's shooting Martin because he was 'scared' meant that he got off scotch-free.

He even got his gun back.

I've been wanting to write a post on why it's important for YA to represent multiple ethnicities for a long time now.  On why, despite the fact that books with whitewashed covers still, it's important to show that there's as much racial diversity in the YA corner of the bookstore as there is in the world. On why writing stories and showcasing stories with people of color is important, not only to people of color, but to how the world around us operates.

People of color have different experiences from white people. They still have to fight racist tendencies and racist norms. They are more likely to be frisked in NYC for no reason. They are more likely to be killed or arrested. They can fire a gun to warn off an attacker, not hitting anybody, and still be sent to jail for more time as a man who brutally murdered a teenage boy.

They're told that they'll do less well in school because of something as inconsequential as the amount of pigment in their skin - or they're told that they'll do better and are shunned when they don't because of something as inconsequential as the amount of pigment in their skin.

And they are called names, offensive names and hurtful names and names I would never dare say because damn it, you don't dehumanize people like that.

You wanna know why I want more representation on covers and in books in the YA section? Because the more something is represented, the more accepted it is. And the less shit like this happens.

I have no funny lines today. I have no anecdotes, no links to Goodreads about books with protaganists who are people of color, no quotes from Twitter. All I have today is anger and shelves full of books with white faces.

And all I want is change.

Jul 11, 2013

LGBTQ representation in YA lit.

I've been thinking a lot lately about LGBTQ representation in YA lit. And not just LGBTQ, but all of the various initials arranged in ways that I can't remember - QUILTBAG and LGBTQIA and all combinations of sorts.

YA literature is fairly good at representing LGBTQ in YA lit. Goodreads has several different lists of YA books that have LGBTQ characters as main or side characters: LGBTQ YA (Young Adult) Literature, YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi Novels wit Major LGBTQ Characters, Booklist for Trans Youth, Historical Children's and YA with LGBTQ Characters, Lesbian Historical YA, Trans* Young Adult Books.

Despite these lists, there are heavy overlaps in each, and the most popular YA books often don't make the list. And that's not to include the narrowness of what's represented in YA lit.

The most popular and well-known of the two initials, L and G - are the most often represented. (And yes, hang in there; I am going to break down all the different sexualities that we have initials for, and then rant angrily about how even then it doesn't fit everybody.) Lesbians and gays are the most popular representative sexual identities outside of straight, cisgendered people.

Straight and cisgendered means that they are attracted to the opposite sex while simultaneously identifying with the gender they assigned at birth. Lesbian references a woman being attracted to a woman. Gay references a man being attracted to a man, but could also be used to refer to homosexuals as a whole.

Bisexuals (the B) are not as well represented as I'd like them to be. Bisexual refers to people who are attracted to two genders (not necessarily man and woman, but woman and tran*woman, etc). Like in real life, they tend to be washed away in fiction to be replaced with those who are clearly gay or clearly straight.

Transgender (the T) refers to those who are not cisgender. They identify with a gender other than those assigned to them at birth.

Then there's the initials and sexualities that usually don't appear in literature at all - Q, which can stand for queer (meaning you don't identify as straight or any other sexual orientation) or questioning. I myself identify as demisexual, which means I'm not sexually attracted to somebody until I'm in love with them. There's asexual, which means that a person is not sexually attracted to anybody, or interested in sex at all.

And there's plenty of other sexualities - intersex, polysexual, pansexual - and that's not including that sexuality is flexible and can change as time goes on.

Nevermind people who are demisexual and bi-romantic (those who can fall in love with more than one gender), etc., etc.

While a good chunk of my friends identify as heterosexual, I'd say about 30% of them identify as something else - gay or lesbian or bisexual or demisexual or asexual. It's very normal in my life to talk to people who don't fit 'the norm.'

Yet so much of YA is about 'the norm' - almost all romances are heterosexual; most characters are heterosexual; and if they're gay, it's either their defining trait or completely swept under the rug once it's mentioned.

"If we can’t write diversity into sci-fi, then what’s the point? You don’t create new worlds to give them all the same limits of the old ones."

The quote from Jane Espenson is one that I like to apply to YA lit. We have a vary wide variety of genres and stories in YA lit, and YA is also one of the most open fields in terms of representing various sexualities.

But, for some reason, they're not as widely represented as they could be. And when they are, they're often killed off.

Being treated like possessions in our common history is true for women; it’s true for people of color, and it’s true for LGBTQ people. Our society can’t bury us under the achievements of straight white men, though, because we are too much a part of history. We need to include ourselves in mainstream fiction and in speculative fiction, because we have always been here, all of us, all of us holding different, important roles. Don’t let them ignore us anymore.

That's Tamora Pierce on how history isn't straight white men, and how literature shouldn't be straight white men either.

And there's Sarah Diemer on relatability in terms of LGBTQ literature:
I’ve had people tell me that they don’t feel that they could read a book with a lesbian main character because they don’t believe that they could relate to it. The difference between you walking out of a book store, frustrated at not being able to find a story that you could relate to, and straight people telling me they’re not certain if they could relate to a lesbian main character, however, are two vastly different things. It’s a straight world—almost every story in existence is straight, every myth and fairy tale we’ve been told, growing up, is straight, every movie, every commercial we see (or that gets any play or notoriety) is straight. When people tell me, “I don’t think I could relate” for ONE book, they’re not understanding the fact that we have to not relate ALL the time if we want to read anything. Obviously, there are wonderful straight stories that we both love, but we don’t have the luxury of being able to say “meh, it’s straight, don’t think I can relate to it!

And there are plenty of quotes on LGBTQ representation in YA literature on the LGBTQ tag on our Fuck Yeah! Young Adult Lit Tumblr.

There's not really a point to this post other than to point out the variety of sexualities - not just those in the LBGTQ initialisms - and to say that I'd like there to be more. That it is possible.

And that I really, really like diversity in YA lit.

What do you think of LGBTQ representation in YA lit? What are some of your favorite LBGTQ characters?

Jul 8, 2013

Giveaway: CRASH AND BURN

This giveaway is over.

I've got two copies of Michael Hassan's new Crash and Burn up for grabs!

On April 21, 2008, Steven “Crash” Crashinsky saved over a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers’ lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don’t know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.

Until now.

Quick Recap:
[2] copies of Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan up for grabs
[2] winners in the U.S. only
ends July 15

How to Win:
[mandatory] follow WORD on some sort of medium
[mandatory] fill out the form below
[+1] for every additional medium you follow WORD

Jul 5, 2013

Guest post: Kerri Chase on trend-chasing in YA (& giveaway)

This giveaway is over.

So let me tell you a cautionary tale. A few years ago, I started writing a YA paranormal novel, back when paranormals were The Thing. Now, I was not writing the paranormal because paranormals were The Thing, I was writing it because it was a story that consumed me, that had actually come to me in a dream, a la Stephanie Meyer.

I’d been reading Twilight, in fact. And Harry Potter. With some John Green and Sarah Dessen and Barry Lyga thrown in for good measure. But Twilight really swept me off my feet (have I mentioned that I’m a recovering book snob?). It got inside my head, this book about vampires and werewolves, along with all the hoopla surrounding it. In fact, I feel certain that Twilight took over my id, and told it to give me the idea for my own YA paranormal, which I was then consumed with a need to write.

And write I did, furtively, for about six months, while I dreamed of the sure-fire fame and fortune that would result from its publication. I figured I had it made: I was writing a story I really believed in, AND I would be surfing a trend wave safely to the beach.

When I’d banged out a good enough draft, I gave it to another YA writer friend for comments, and I’ll never forget what she said. She said: “It’s so good. It’s so good I can’t believe no one hasn’t written it yet.”

Turns out someone had. And just as I started looking for an agent for the novel, I saw that it was debuting on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Okay, so it wasn’t exactly my novel—the only thing the two books shared was the paranormal ability of the main characters, and hey, there are like a million vampire novels on the YA shelves, so why couldn’t there be two of our kind of character? Our novels were different in every other way.

But no. I’d been scooped. Agent after agent, then later (when the agent I signed with for a different book tried to sell the paranormal) editor after editor, mentioned the other book and said that there wasn’t space in the competitive marketplace for two of this kind of book, blah, blah, blah.

I disagreed, and still do. But this was my reality because, like it or not, I was chasing the paranormal trend.

At the time, I hadn’t thought of my novel as a trend-chaser, but in retrospect, it totally was. Like I said, Twilight got inside my head, and I thought something like, “Hey, I can do this—probably even better.” And as soon as I did that, I threw myself headlong into a pool of highly ambitious and creative and talented writers all ready to eat each other alive to become The Next Big Thing.

But the trend-makers, the ones who really would write The Next Big Thing, were already swimming in another pool. The dystopian pool.

It’s like what my parents’ urbane Manhattanite friends said about Balthazar, the “it” restaurant of the late 90’s: “By the time housewives in Stockton (my hometown) read about it, the restaurant is done.”

What’s the takeaway here? That I shouldn’t have bothered writing this novel that I wanted so badly to write, because I was obviously too late to the paranormal party?

Partly. See, I’m not a big believer in regret—it will also eat you alive. Even though it was a trend-chaser, writing that novel taught me a great deal about writing a character-driven but also plot-heavy book with a supernatural twist, an experience I wouldn’t have gotten from writing anything else. It also taught me the valuable secret I’m letting you in on today.

I think it was a good thing that I wrote this novel, but if I were to do it all again—or if I were to counsel dystopian-writing students in a current creative writing workshop—I would advise myself not to get too excited about the publication opportunities. I would tell myself that I was writing this novel because I loved it, and because I needed to write it out of myself, but that I was writing it as a learning experience. To be realistic about its chances of publication (slightly higher than 0%).

But because I’ve already had that particular learning experience, both of writing a paranormal and of chasing a trend, these days I would tell myself to write something different altogether. Something non-trend, instead of on-trend.

Which, by the way, I’ve been doing. I’ve poking slowly away at a contemporary YA novel for the last year or so. Then guess what?

This past spring, my Twitter feed was positively clogged with news from the Bologna children’s conference that agents and editors are on the hunt for contemporary YA. Crap, I thought. I wasn’t supposed to be trend chasing! I can’t win!

So I stopped reading Twitter till the conference was safely over. I didn’t want to know. I was too committed to the novel to quit now. So this time I’m crossing my fingers that the scooping doesn’t happen again, and that I arrive just fashionably late to the party. I think the good news about contemporary YA is that it really never goes out of style.

At least, that’s what I keep telling myself, as I try to keep my publication fantasies in check. The writing life is long. Trends are short.

Keep writing, I tell myself. That’s the important thing.


Kerri Majors is the author of This is Not a Writing Manual: Notes for the Young Writer in the Real World (Writer’s Digest Books, July 2013). She is also the Editor and Founder of YARN, the Young Adult Review Network (www.yareview.net), an award-winning literary journal of YA short stories, essays, and poetry. Kerri’s own writings have been published in journals like Guernica and Poets and Writers. She has an MFA from Columbia, and lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Mike, and their daughter. You can find out more about her at www.kerrimajors.com.


Oh, AND she's giving away a copy of This is Not a Writing Manual!

Real-world writing advice, minus all the lectures.You're an aspiring writer. Maybe you've just discovered your love of words and dream of being a novelist someday. Maybe you've been filling notebooks with science-fiction stories since middle school. Maybe you're contemplating a liberal arts degree, but you don't know what the heck you're going to do with it. The last thing you need is another preachy writing manual telling you how you should write.

This book isn't a writing manual. It is a series of candid and irreverent essays on the writing life, from a writer who's lived it. Kerri Majors shares stories from her own life that offer insights on the realities all writers face: developing a writing voice, finding a real job (and yes, you do need to find one), taking criticism, getting published, and dealing with rejection.

Don't have enough time to write? Learn how to plan your days to fit it all in. Not sure how your guilty pleasures and bad habits translate into literature? Kerri explains how soap operas and eavesdropping can actually help your writing. Need a reader for your first novel? Find a writing buddy or a writing group that will support you. Nervous about submitting your first piece? Learn from Kerri's own roller coaster journey to find an agent and get published.

Quick Recap:
[1] copy of This is Not a Writing Manual by Kerri Majors up for grabs
[1] winner in the U.S. only
ends July 12

How To Win:
[mandatory] follow WORD on some sort of medium
[mandatory] fill out the form below

Jul 1, 2013

The Wish List (4)

What am I going to spend my summer waiting for?

Rebel Belle
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Series: ---
Release Date: 8 April 2014

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

The Glass Caskett
Author: McCormick Templeman
Series: ---
Release Date: 11 February 2014

Death hasn’t visited Rowan Rose since it took her mother when Rowan was only a little girl. But that changes one bleak morning, when five horses and their riders thunder into her village and through the forest, disappearing into the hills. Days later, the riders’ bodies are found, and though no one can say for certain what happened in their final hours, their remains prove that whatever it was must have been brutal.

Rowan’s village was once a tranquil place, but now things have changed. Something has followed the path those riders made and has come down from the hills, through the forest, and into the village. Beast or man, it has brought death to Rowan’s door once again.

Only this time, its appetite is insatiable.

The Lost
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Series: ---
Release Date: 29 October 2013

Lost your way? Your dreams?

Yourself?

Welcome to Lost.

It was supposed to be a small escape. A few hours driving before turning around and heading home. But once you arrive in Lost...well, it's a place you really can't leave. Not until you're Found. Only the Missing Man can send you home. And he took one look at Lauren Chase and disappeared.

So Lauren is now trapped in the town where all lost things go-luggage, keys, dreams, lives-where nothing is permanent, where the locals go feral and where the only people who don't want to kill her are a handsome wild man called the Finder and a knife-wielding six-year-old girl. The only road out of town is engulfed by an impassable dust storm, and escape is impossible....

Until Lauren decides nothing-and no one-is going to keep her here anymore.



I've been waiting for ages for Rebel Belle to get a cover so I could properly include it in a Wish List post and damn, I was not disappointed! It's b-e-a-utiful.

What are you guys looking forward to?