Month: September 2010 Page 2 of 3

Setting sail (cruise recap, part 1)

Last week on Labor Day, Andy and I set sail on the Carnival Inspiration. This was our first cruise, both as a couple and individually. I have to admit, I expected Andy to get bored, and possibly seasick. To my surprise, he was neither. He kept us busy, exploring the ship, watching the comedy shows, entering trivia contests, and even sunbathing!

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I dragged him onto the giant slide, and it was a blast. Literally–of water, up your nose! But that’s okay, it was still a ton of fun. And I got to see him in swim trunks for the first time EVER. (We’ve been dating for over 5 years, folks.)

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My favorite part of being at sea was being at sea. With nothing on the horizon but the curve of the earth, the sky and the clouds, and the endless rolling waves.

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Now as I mentioned, we did have a little detour. The cruise was originally scheduled to dock at Grand Cayman and then Cozumel. Unfortunately, on the first night of the cruise, a gentleman became ill (or died… given the demographics of the passengers, we put the odds at 50/50). He needed to be taken to a hospital, so we docked at Key West instead.

While I applaud the Carnival crew and staff for the smooth and professional way they handled everything, from notifying us of the change to arranging excursions at our new location, I have to admit, it was definitely a disappointment. Instead of feeding stingrays, visiting Hell, and holding baby sea turtles (our plans for Grand Cayman) we kayaked through the mangroves at Key West.

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The one thing that definitely went according to plans was our eating. We did a lot of that, and it was good.

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I'm ba-aaack

Hiii! {waves} Didja miss me? The cruise was lovely, thanks for asking. I’ll blog more about it later this week, but suffice it to say, there was an expected detour, lots of stingrays, and a little bit of sunburn.

There was also NO internet (well, expensive internet I wasn’t willing to pay for — same diff) so I spent all Saturday and Sunday catching up on emails and blogs. Apparently I overdid it, though, because now I have a shooting pain in my wrist and have to wear my brace again. Ugh.

But anyway.

I’d like to thank my guest bloggers one more time. Sarah, Sonja, Rachele, Erin, and Natalie — y’all rock! Thank you SO much for taking care of my blog (probably better than I do, haha). I really appreciate it.

I also want to thank everyone who commented, and made my lovely guest bloggers feel welcome. Y’all are da bomb dot com!

(But of course we knew that already.)

Last but not least, the winners of my shameless comment bribery are Joelle and Scott! (Yes, two winners. I’m shameless AND sneaky, booyah.) They both left very thoughtful comments, and not just once, but on multiple posts.

Their prize for being consistently thoughtful and responsive is… a free book! Since we’re all readers/writers, I figured that would be most appropriate. Plus I’ve been inspired by Larramie over at The Divining Wand, who is simply wonderful about spreading book-love.

So, Scott will receive Crossing by Andrew Xia Fukuda, and Joelle will get How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson. Enjoy!

Crossing How to Buy a Love of Reading

Scott, can you email me (khoffman at with your address? Joelle, I’ll see you next week at writing group, hehe.

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The (de)evolution of a writer

Mere words cannot do justice to my love for Natalie Whipple. (Kind of ironic, huh?) In a blogosphere full of writers clamoring for attention, Natalie stands out for being completely open, honest, helpful, funny, insightful, and most of all, genuine.

(Trust me. After I discovered her, I went back and read every. single. post. in her archive of 2+ years. So I know.)

She also has great taste in anime, a zillion awesome book ideas, and enviable talent with a pen. And pencil! Yes, Natalie is an artist to boot, and she has graciously shared that talent with us today.

I want to give a big thanks to Natalie and all my wonderful guest bloggers! Readers, please remember to show them comment-love. When I get back, I’ll select the most thoughtful comment of the week, and winner/prize will be announced Monday.

Now, without further ado, Natalie’s guest post…

(Click to enlarge. No seriously: CLICK NOW!)

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Why I Write YA

Erin Danehy pretty much rocks the hizzouse. We trade like 9 billion emails a day (no, really) and she’s always full of good advice, random but helpful information, and (in her words) cheeky optimism.

Even though we went to college and studied writing “together,” we didn’t really become friends until after graduating and moving to different cities. Now I can’t even imagine going through this process (of becoming an author) without her by my side.

Erin recently signed with agent Kate Testerman, and soon her amazing YA fantasy BOUND BETWEEN will be on submission to editors. Please leave her lots and lots of comments, since I won’t be around to clog up her inbox this week. :)

I was originally planning to dish on my experience with Kristan as a crit partner (because I know you all want to know all those juicy details! Um, yes…), but I’ll save that for a future guest post.

Without further ado, I present a list of the heartfelt, stupid, crazy, applicable, random, insensible, honest, nerdy, and deep-down emotional reasons why I write (and always have wanted to write) novels for young adults. (Replete with much parenthetical commentary.) These aren’t necessarily the same reasons for why I write fantasy (that’s a whole ‘nother list), but some are the same. I bet you won’t guess which ones!

I write YA because…

  1. I want to. (What, that’s not in and of itself a valid reason? I have to elaborate? Pfft.)
  2. When I was twelve years old, I decided to be a novelist and write novels for ME, me as defined as who I was then — and it’s still true for who I am now. I swore I’d never write a book I didn’t love. That I’d always strive to write a book I could call My Favorite Book of All Time. At the time that book didn’t exist — and it still doesn’t exist. That is my carrot-on-a-stick, my very pulse. I live to write the best book I’ve ever read. Over and over again, across my whole career.
  3. I’m obsessed with coming-of-age stories. Young Adult, as a genre, encompasses the age at which most people “come of age” — in a variety of legal and emotional senses.
  4. I had a relatively boring, normal teenage life in the suburbs, so I write about teens who don’t have boring teen years. (Whether or not they welcome the boredom, ha.) Escapism? Nope. I write for pure fun and imagination, for thrill, joy, love, and the “what if” just beyond every corner.
  5. I have absurdly vivid memories of my childhood and of my teen years, my “young adult” years, when I wanted so desperately to just “grow up” and be done with being a “kid.” Those memories are replete with the visceral emotions I felt at the time. I can still feel the searing pain and disappointment from my first college rejection letter at seventeen; the loneliness and abandonment I felt as a twelve-year-old who had no “best friend” the way novels told her she should; the swell of triumph and pride of hitting a home run on my high school softball team at fourteen. I feel them with such immediacy, it’s only natural I write about young adults.
  6. I’m a big kid. I routinely use slang, make up my own slang, and I get more excited about the latest PG Animated Movie release than the latest big Summer Blockbuster or Romantic Comedy. I play with toys. I make funny faces in the mirror. I hate the thought of being considered a “kid” but I also want so badly to be taken seriously as a “grown up.” Still. I’ve always been this way. This is who I am. I’ll change, I’m sure, but I’ll still always be this person, or I’ll always have been this person, this big kid.
  7. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe my high school experience, at least as far as I’ve learned so far. I’m willing to spend an entire career searching for and using all of those adjectives to write about high school and the experience of being 14-18, to write about being on the cusp of, in the middle of, and just beyond… everything.
  8. I naturally exaggerate about everything. So does the average teenager. I think because we have that in common, it makes sense I write for teenagers. (Also teens are the best audience EVER. EVERRRRR.)
  9. I’ve been obsessed with the idea of a classroom of students reading a book I wrote since the third grade. (THIRD GRADE; that was before I was even certain I was going to be a novelist. This must mean I’m dedicated.)
  10. I LOVE the idea of going to a school or library and talking to kids, teachers, and librarians about reading and writing. About my books! They will have to kick me out of school/library events and book signings.
  11. Because teen (and all-around) literacy is important to me. Hugely important.
  12. Some teen readers use YA lit as a jumping off point into older “classics,” into adult genres of all sub-sorts, or into further YA lit discovery. I would love for my books to encourage a teen to pick up one of my classic favorites (Pride and Prejudice, Paradise Lost, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), some of my adult genre favorites (oh — there are too many), or a YA book (or “coming of age” as some pre-“YA-as-genre” books could be classed) from yesteryear they might not have yet discovered (again, too many to list). I would love my books to be that stepping stone.
  13. The English major in me sees the young adult / coming of age experience as a version of Joseph Campbell’s hero theory. (Extrapolate it; it works!) I’m obsessed with Joseph Campbell’s hero theory to something of an unhealthy degree. (Go read The Hero With a Thousand Faces now. NOW.) So why wouldn’t I write young adult / coming of age stories?
  14. As a teen I read voraciously, but when I was reading young adult fantasy for the first time, there weren’t more than a handful of female-hero-driven fantasy books I could fall in love with. I had to skip to adult, or hang around exhausting the kid’s (middle grade) section, or put up with (some rather excellent, I admit) male-hero-driven fantasy books. Since I was a teen, there’s been an explosion of the genre of young adult fantasy featuring strong female protagonists who’ve earned the title of “hero.” I couldn’t be happier. I want to be a part of that.
  15. I love reading YA. Love. I’ve always wanted to be a part of the genre I love, to participate in the game as well as cheer on the sidelines.
  16. Teens aren’t the only ones who read and love YA. I like the idea of writing for EVERYONE, for writing for the 12+, the 14+, the 16+ audience. YA doesn’t limit me. It’s one of the freest genres I can think of.
  17. I love YA, but I also recognize that I don’t have to limit a career to YA alone. If I ever want to write for adults, for middle-grade; a picture book, a non-fiction book (about Joseph Campbell’s hero theory? Yes? Yes?), a memoir… why not? I just might. I don’t know. But just because I’m loving and writing YA now doesn’t mean I have to limit myself to this genre forever.

The more I read over that list, the more I realize that represents only a fraction of the impossible-to-articulate reasons why I write YA. Really, I like my first reason: Because I want to. It’s so much more succinct than having to list all the others and more.

So Kristan’s lovely readers, please tell me: why do you read what you read? Why do you write what you write? What inspires you? What motivates you?

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Writing superpowers

Two summers ago, Rachele Alpine and I could have been BFF. We were both at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, living in idyllic, isolated Gambier, Ohio, and writing our brains out. BUT. Since we were in different classes, we didn’t really get to know each other. {sad face}

Fortunately, thanks to teh interwebs, we reconnected later. Now I know Rachele is a beloved teacher, a voracious reader, and an all-around great gal.

Big thanks to Rachele for taking time out of her BUSY life (teaching! MFA! book on submission! wedding planning?) to guest post. She really is a super woman.

I have never been a big superhero fan. Yeah, I loved the Spiderman movies, but I think it was more because of Tobey McGuire’s dorky cuteness than anything else. I have two friends who write/illustrate comic books, but besides looking at their work once in awhile, I never really got into the superhero craze.

However, when Kristan posed a question the other day about what writer “superpowers” I wished I had and which ones I already possess, I started to think a lot about superheroes and their special abilities.

First, I thought about fictitious superpowers. You know, the kind that you see in comic books and movies. The powers that a person would never have, but it would be awesome if they did. I ruled out invisibility, because even though it would be kind of cool to creep around without people knowing, there might be some information I’d find out that I didn’t want to know. The same goes with the power to read people’s minds. Some things are just best not knowing. Flying would be fun for about five minutes, but then I’d just get bored and figure all my friends would be asking for rides to places on my back to save money on gas. I think if I could have a fictitious superhero power, it would have to be extreme speed like the Flash. I have so many routine things I do everyday that life would be so much better if I could speed through them and spend time on the more important stuff. Instead of taking forever to blow dry my hair, clean the house, drive to work or exercise, I could do it in a matter of seconds with my super fast speed. I’d be able to focus on things the things I love like writing (hooray!), reading and watching bad reality TV (think of all the episodes of Teen Mom and The Real Housewives I could catch up on if I could speed through the boring every day tasks!).

If we were talking about writing superpowers, I would wish for the power of outlining. I just simply cannot do it. I’m the type of person who likes to sit down and write and write and write. The problem is that I’ll often hit a wall with my writing. I have had to push stories aside and let them simmer before I can go back to them with fresh ideas. My writing often looks like puzzles with pages cut out and spaced out all over the floor so I can work on creating an outline after I get stuck. I admire those who first have the dedication to sit down and write an outline before starting a story (I always want to just start to write) and then use that as their road map. How nice life must be when you know the route your story is going to take. It’s fun to have my characters surprise me, but there’s too often those points where they just stand around and look at me like they’re all expecting me to point them in the right direction. The superpower of outlining would help me do that!

I do have a superpower with writing! I possess the coveted YA writer power of understanding teenagers. I’m surrounded by them eight hours a day as a tenth grade Language Arts teacher and when I go home I’m addicted to bad MTV reality shows. I love teeny bopper movies (I can’t wait for Easy A and never tire of Mean Girls) and have piles of journals from my high school years that I often go back to for inspiration. I feel like when I write, I can easily channel “teen speak” and “teen thought.” I know what they’re thinking, because I hear what they’re thinking in the classroom all day. I know what stresses, upsets, angers and excites them. I may not be a teen anymore, but I’m still a part of that world and it helps me so much with story development.

Writing superpowers really is an interesting concept. I believe we all have one and with a click the power button on a computer, the uncapping of a pen or rip of a fresh sheet of notebook paper, we call this power into action. So what about you? What are the writing superpowers that you have and what are the ones that you wish you could have?

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