Let’s start a Realistic YA revolution and….Amplifed ARC contest!

I’ve talked with quite a few debut contemporary realistic YA authors over the last year, and the vast majority of us agree on one thing — our books just didn’t get the attention we’d hoped for. Most of us are nervous about where we’re at and generally spend way too much time wondering…what’s next?

But it’s not really about ‘us’ or our careers –it’s about the importance of realistic YA and how I, for one, don’t want to see it go anywhere! You know, I’ve seen folks saying they want realistic YA to make a comeback. There have even been hints that editors are hoping for it. This is usually followed by…well, people have to start BUYING it first.

And there’s the real issue. Why aren’t more people buying realistic YA? The trend these last several years has been all about escaping reality. As someone who is fascinated by psychology and the human mind, I always try to come up with theories for trends and why what’s ‘cool’ is forever changing. But the problem is…I’ve never been cool or into popular culture. Seriously, I’ve been known to watch ANTM out of morbid curiosity and I still can’t name a single designer or understand the point of a painful weave. Or, really, understand why it’s still on after 55 seasons (or something).

But I digress, this post isn’t about why trends are trends (because who actually knows the answer to that). It’s not even about why people should read realistic YA. Most of you know the WHY. In fact, Stacked Books made this amazing post last week as part of their Contemporary YA series (definitely check that out)

This post is about what we’re going to do about it. Well, we should start small. I’m thinking along the lines of a Realistic YA revolution (grin). I’d like to start by sharing a list of some of my favorite realistic contemporary reads, with a focus on those books I feel didn’t get the attention they deserved.

I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE and BALLADS OF SUBURBIA by Stephanie Kuehnert: This woman does raw emotion like no other. These books pack a formidable combination of beautiful writing, messed up, but REAL and loveable characters, and emotional power. Read them. You will NOT forget them.

INCONVENIENT by Margie Gelbwasser: A heartbreaking story about a girl who has to clean up her mom’s mess–something way too many kids do every day. Margie has a beautiful voice, and her MC (Alyssa Bondar) will introduce you to a culture we don’t often get to read about.

THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 by Steven Brezenoff: There’s no doubt about it–this guy knows how teens think and talk. Packed with realistic dialogue and very believable and authentic narratives, this book manages to mix raw emotion with humor in a unique story about three friends. I also have to mention that his upcoming book blew me away.

FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers: Let’s face it, we all wish we had the talent this chick does (Okay, I know I do). I’ve yet to be able to put ANY of her books down and that is very rare for me. I have ADHD, people. Her latest book is a bit different from her first two, but every bit as powerful with unforgettable characters.

DEBBIE HARRY SINGS IN FRENCH by Meagan Brothers: Okay, this book came out a few years back and seemed to get very little attention, but it’s fucking AWESOME, okay? It’s a heartwarming story about a cross-dressing boy falling in love with a messed-up, but loveable girl. It’s authentic to the core. What’s not to like?

PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ by A.S. King: This book got a well-deserved Printz Honor medal, but it’s so damn amazing I had to add it to this list. I’ve read it THREE times since it came out (I hardly ever reread books) This is the kind of book that inspires me to become a better writer. These characters…wow. I will NOT forget them.

Okay, now….onto the AMPLIFIED ARC giveaway.

Synopsis: When privileged 17-year-old Jasmine gets kicked out of her house, she takes what is left of her savings and flees to Santa Cruz to pursue her dream of becoming a musician. Jasmine finds the ideal room in an oceanfront house, but she needs to convince the three guys living there that she’s the perfect roommate and lead guitarist for their band, C-Side. Too bad she has major stage fright and the cute bassist doesn’t think a spoiled girl from over the hill can hack it. . . .

All you have to do is comment on this post with your name, email address, and a realistic YA recommendation you feel hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. But I highly encourage you to tweet/facebook/blog about this contest and–more importantly–your realistic YA recommendations. I can’t start this YA revolution alone. It’s going to take a lot of us to get the word out there and to bring attention to these books. We all have different tastes–some of us like it light, some of us like it dark. I’m betting at least ONE person out there will love your recommendation as much as you do.

As an added bonus, I’m recruiting other realistic YA authors to donate their books or ARCs to this contest. I’ll update this as authors offer up their signed books. But so far we’ve got:

Contest ends June 30th! I’ll do a drawing for each book/ARC, and list the winners on July 1st. I’ll also write up a post with all of the realistic YA recommendations listed, including a ‘top’ 5 of the most listed books.

Now, let’s get this revolution started.

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Music for the Muse

I’m part of a group of musically-obsessed authors who decided to blog today about none other than….music and how it inspires our writing. A special thank you to Ronna and Stephanie Kuehnert for inviting me to participate!

I’ve actually blogged about this topic before and posted playlists for my upcoming book HARMONIC FEEDBACK. Feel free to check out that post here

To add to what I’ve already said, music and writing are like peanut butter & strawberry jelly for me. I can’t have one without the other. Music paints the initial pictures of a story for me. I can see the character’s faces, feel their emotions, and hear their voices…as if I’m watching a movie in my head. On the flip side, I’m also a musician. My books inspire my music. I write lyrics based on the stories and characters I’ve created. In fact, I even write melodies for each character…something that fits their energy, so to speak.

Music and writing have gone hand and hand for me since I can remember. Although, I had no interest in making music myself until high school…interestingly enough. I guess I never believed I had my family’s musical talent. I certainly didn’t get my mom’s incredible painting or drawing skills. No, I was more of a braniac type…and a writer. In fact, at the age of 12, I wanted to be a pediatrician…and a novelist. I think at once point I wanted to be a prosecutor too, but we’ll skip that part. Nobody ever accused me of being practical :)

Then one day…sometime in junior high…I was listening to my tiny pink (yes, pink–shaddup)boom box. I think they were playing Bjork’s “Human Behavior”–we had the coolest radio station in San Francisco back then. They’d play music like Tool, Bjork, New Order, and White Zombie back to back. What radio station does that now? Seriously? Anyway, I was just staring at my ceiling, day dreaming (this was often how I spent after-school nights) and I started seeing these characters and a story in my head. A bored girl who gets to go on some exotic adventure–not that *I* was inserting my OWN fantasies in there or anything. But I remember getting so pumped up about it that I tore into one of my notebooks and started writing. Then..I begged my mom for some cash to buy Bjork’s debut album :)

This became a ritual for me. Every story had a different soundtrack/album that I would play over…and over..and over. You see, this was in the dinosaur age(the 90′s) before the days of mp3s. Some of us didn’t even have CD players yet…we had *whispers* tapes. And those tapes were a precious commodity for me. You see, I’d often play them until they broke. And well, I didn’t have money to buy a new one. So I had this system down of using a sliver of scotch tape to tape it back together…yes, literally. I have NO clue how I got this to work, but…it worked like a charm every time. Hey, at the time I thought I was brilliant. AND without my quick fix, I wouldn’t have been able to write.

No, really. I CANNOT write without music. It is impossible. I’ve tried. At the very least, I need music for the emotion of a scene. Writing, in many ways, is like acting. To do a character justice, I absolutely have to feel what they feel. The right song is the bridge that brings me into their head and situation.

I can’t make music without a story. Every song needs to tell a story–even if it doesn’t have lyrics. Melodies tell stories..even beats tell stories. I’d be lost without my characters guiding me along…telling me their darkest secrets :) Granted, every once in awhile, I write a song based on personal experience, but then again…I think every character I create has a small part of me or my life experiences in them.

Now it’s your turn. How does music affect your writing process? Or do you need music at all?

Please check out the other authors who are blogging about this topic today. They have written some beautiful stories!







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