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Posts Tagged ‘young adult literature’

“They’re barefoot, moving silently along the carpeted hallway, searching for some clue to which hotel room might be Jenna McNulty’s.”

That’s the first line of Perpetual Check (Random House, 2009, 112 pages), by Rich Wallace. He’s the author of several realistic YA novels. Three of his books have been chosen as ALA Best Books for Your Adults.

From the Jacket Flap:

Randy is a chubby ninth grader with a Cub Scout hair cut who guesses M&M colors with his eyes closed and makes up words. He’s also a chess whiz who has defeated his older brother Zeke in nine of their last ten matches. Zeke is a high school senior, a soccer champ, and a chess natural who can beat just about anyone if he decides to really concentrate. So why is his loser little brother the better athlete, the better chess player, and the first to have a girlfriend?

Told in alternating points of view between brothers, Rich Wallace’s new novel brings to life one of America’s favorite pastimes in a suspenseful story about competition and family loyalty.

Perpetual Check is the fourth Rich Wallace book I’ve read. He does a really good job of writing from a male POV. 

I first heard Rich speak at the ALAN Conference several years ago and now I try to read everything he writes. He uses sports as a framework for his stories, but the stories themselves are about relationships.

In Perpetual Check, you don’t need to know anything about Chess in order to become swept up in the story.

Thanks for coming by.

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I first heard Paul Volponi speak at the 2006 ALAN Conference as one of the New Voices in Young Adult Literature.

I remember him being passionate about writing realistic books that would connect with reluctant readers. At the time, I was teaching English in a school for kids who had exhausted all their other public school options. Consistently throughout my fifteen year tenure in that school, over ninety per cent of my students were male struggling and reluctant readers. Many of them had been in detention. Most had intense home lives either living with their families, in foster care, or group homes. I was always on the lookout for books that would speak to them.

Paul Volponi’s books did not disappoint me. For six years Paul taught incarcerated teens on Rikers Island to read and write. He’s the real deal and has won a slew of awards for his YA novels.

Here’s a quote from his 2006 presentation: “Books for reluctant readers have to grab you around the throat in the first couple of pages and not let go.”

Paul has authored eight Young Adult novels. I’m giving away three of them. And yeah, they all grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let go!

Black and White

Marcus and Eddie are best friends who found the strength to break through the racial barrier. Marcus is black; Eddie is white. Stars of their school basketball team, they are true leaders who look past the stereotypes and come out on top. They are inseparable, watching each other’s backs, both on and off the basketball court. But one decision—one mistake—will change their lives forever.

Rooftop

Cousins Clay and Addison were like brothers, growing up together in the projects, until they were ripped apart by a family argument. When they are reunited in a drug-treatment program, they try to work out their issues like a family. But one night, one wrong decision, leaves Clay shaken and Addison dead. And in the rash of events that follow, the truth of what actually happened on the rooftop of the apartment building is caught up in a clash of politics and racial issues. Will Clay be able to rise above the lies and face the truth?

Rucker Park Setup

Rucker Park—a place where some of basketball’s greatest pro players go up against street legends. Best friends Mackey and J.R. have waited their whole lives to win the basketball tournament here. But when the day of an important game arrives, J.R. is fatally stabbed. And while Mackey didn’t wield the knife, he feels responsible. Now he has a score to settle, but the killer is watching his every move. Caught between two opposing forces, Mackey is determined to finish the final game of the Rucker Park Tournament on his own terms. The question is, can he do it?

Three winners will be chosen randomly.

To enter:

1. Leave a comment by midnight EST June 25th, telling me which book you’d like to win (if you have a preference), and I’ll try to accommodate your choice. 

2. If you can think of one, please leave a title to a book you’ve read that you think would engage a reluctant or struggling reader. You can still enter the contest either way:-)

Thanks for stopping by!

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I first met Carol Lynch Williams in 2007 at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference she organizes every year. After the conference Carol and I continued our friendship via email and it’s still going strong today. She’s always there with a kind and encouraging word, or a joke. And now, by a stroke of luck or fate, we are agency mates, and call each other cousin. I’m looking forward to the next family reunion.

Carol is the author of more than twenty middle grade and young adult novels. Her most recent is The Chosen One (2009 St. Martin’s Press).

 The Chosen One grabbed me around the throat and wouldn’t let go. It’s an edgy, poetic, page-turning YA novel with a killer voice. It’s one of those books that keeps you up way past your bedtime. I read it in one fell swoop and then was sad that it was over. I wanted a sequel right away.

 From the jacket flap of The Chosen One:

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.

But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.

Carol published her first book, Kelly and Me, with Delacorte in 1993 and is still going strong. She is a four-time winner of the Utah Original Writing Competition and winner of Nebraska’s Golden Sower Award, and a 2009 recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship.

Her newest book, Glimpse, will be released in June by Simon & Schuster. Glimpse is about two sisters. One has tried to kill herself and the other is trying to figure out why.

To learn more about Carol, stop by her blog and say hi. Or better yet, attend her Conference.

I’m giving away a copy of The Chosen One. Leave a comment between now and noon est. on Thursday and you’ll be entered in a random drawing.

Amanda Bonilla over at Swords, Boots and Shadows is reviewing Silver Borne by Patricia Biggs. And, if you click on Recommended Reads you’ll get links to over sixty other blog reviewing books today thanks to Elana Johnson. But first remember to leave a comment so you’ll be entered in the give away!

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A few years ago I went to my first writers conference: The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference. This year it’s in Sandy, Utah at the Waterford School.

I walked in with twelve pages of my second young adult novel, and walked out five days later with a full manuscript request. That request didn’t turn into an offer, but the conference experience motivated me. It clued me in to a lot that I did not know, and supported me in such a way that I came out feeling that anything was possible.

Mornings were spent in a writers workshop critiquing each others’ work and receiving expert instruction. Afternoons had special sessions plus time set aside to talk with the agents, editors, authors. I spent my evenings writing because I was so energized by the buzz. The experience at the conference was one of the main factors that inspired me to pursue writing full-time. Flash forward a couple of years: I have an agent and my third YA novel is out on submission. 

I traveled from Alaska to Utah for that Conference and it was worth every penny. If you write YA, MG, or picture books, or you’re an illustrator, and you can make it to Utah in June, don’t miss it.

They have beginning, intermediate and advanced workshops. Just talk to conference orgainzer, Carol Lynch Williams. She’s a gem of a person–an amazing writer and writing teacher. She will make sure you get into the workshop that best fits your skill level.

 Here’s the information and the link.

 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Workshop brings together writers, illustrators, agents, and editors to explore craft, genre, and current publishing practices.

Full-day participants spend their mornings in small workshops led by award-winning faculty. Both full- and half-day participants enjoy afternoon plenary sessions by national children’s book editors and an agent, as well as breakout sessions by our workshop faculty and guest presenters. The keynote address and book signing are open to all conference attendees.

Join us June 14 – 18 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah for a better than ever conference experience.

Registration is now open!

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How I started writing YA

I taught English in an alternative high school for fifteen years and thanks to my students, I started writing. When I’d read them a short story or a whole novel (yeah, I read whole novels out loud to my class), we’d stop at certain points and they’d write their own scenes using characters from the story. My students were having so much fun doing this that I wanted to get in on it, so I started writing scenes, too. Soon I started writing my own stories and was writing before school, after school and on the weekends, and all summer long. My head was spinning with so many stories that I left my teaching job so I could write full-time.

Where I live and have lived.

I live in Fairbanks, Alaska.

 Alaska, you say? How did a boy from Indiana end up in the far north?

 Between semesters in college I went to Alaska to work in the salmon canneries. I worked on the slime line fifteen hours a day scraping blood and guts from dead fish. But no, that’s not why I moved to Alaska, not because of a love for fish guts. Instead, it was the open, wild space I got to play in on an occasional day off. Free flowing rivers. Tide water glaciers. Bears. I’d been bitten by the Alaska-bug, not to be mistaken for the mosquito—that’s our state bird.

But I didn’t just stay in Alaska that summer. I finished college and then wandered around the country for five years—Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Idaho, California—working as a Naturalist in outdoor education programs. (I had an English Degree but these programs hired me anyway.) You know, the kind of program where you and your classmates spend a week hiking around during the day, having campfires at night, and then sleeping in cabins, all the while trying not to get eaten by bears and mountain lions. In my five years as a Naturalist no one got eaten by anything. I got bit by an alligator lizard, but that’s another story.

One of the benefits of working as a Naturalist was the time off. I had a winter break and a summer break. One winter I did a sixteen hundred mile solo mountain bike trip through the deserts of Nevada, California and Arizona. Most summers I headed to Alaska where I led backpacking trips for teenagers part of the time, and went sea kayaking the rest of the time.DSCN0949

 Settling down. Sort-of.

After a while I got tired of moving around. I wanted a place I could call home. So, one summer when I went to Alaska, I just stayed and got a job teaching English in an Alternative School.

And then I met my wife, Dana. Well, she wasn’t my wife yet but soon she would be. She’s a teacher, too. And she likes sea kayaking and backpacking, too. And reading and writing. We are perfect for each other.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I don’t spend a lot of time sitting around, or even that much time inside. When I was a teacher, I used to ride my bike to school. Even in the winter. When the temperature would drop to fifty below zero, I’d still ride my bike. It was my daily adventure. My students told me I was crazy. Maybe I am a little crazy. I mean, after all, you have to be a little crazy just to live in Alaska.

Another thing I like to do is run marathons. So a few times a week after riding my bike home, I’d go out for a training run.

 Where I write

When I started writing full-time I spent a lot of time sitting. And after a year or so my body started to rebel. My back ached. My shoulders collapsed forward and stayed that way. And my neck—you don’t even want to know. The physical therapist who tried to loosen it up said, this is the tightest neck I’ve ever worked on. It’s hard as cement. Ouch!

I didn’t know writing could be so hazardous. I mean, I’d survived ten foot waves in my sea kayak in the middle of Prince William Sound, avoided polar bears in the Arctic (luckily they were busy feeding on a whale carcass or I may have ended up as their lunch), and lost my footing in the mountains and slid forty feet down a steep slope. I landed on my face and was a little bruised but healed up pretty quickly.  But writing—in a chair for hours and hours on end—was brutal.

I had a treadmill collecting dust in a little room upstairs so I built a desk-top for it. And now, most of my writing time is also walking time. My back and my neck and shoulders are delighted. My friends sometimes ask: “Paul, how many words per mile did you average today?”DSCN1463

Some other things I do

Reading

I read lots of books. Mostly young adult fiction but a fair amount of non-fiction, too. When I taught school most of my students were reluctant readers so I read many very good books just to find a few that my students would connect with. And all that reading was the best education I could’ve had as a writer. So, if you want to write then read, read, read. Never ever stop reading.

 Fishing

Even though I spent a couple summers up to my neck in fish guts, salmon guts specifically, I still love to eat salmon. In Alaska you have lots of opportunities to catch salmon if you are willing to give it a try. One way to catch salmon is by dip netting in the Copper River. You hold a big net on a long pole in the river and you wait until a fish swims into your net. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The river is full of glacial silt so you can’t see below the surface. And the current moves along like a freight train. So, it’s all about feeling the ding in your net and then pulling it up and out before the fish gets away. Then you’ve got to wrestle the fish out of the net and club it on the head. When the fish are running strong my wife and I can catch thirty salmon in two hours. Once she had three fish in her net at the same time. Dip netting is kind of like lifting weights nonstop while balancing on a narrow ledge.

 Gardening

Produce travels a long way to get to Alaska and often it’s not in the greatest shape. I mean, do you like tomatoes the consistency of sandy mush? Or carrots that taste like cardboard? Me neither. Plus, it takes a lot of energy to ship stuff to Alaska. So, yeah, we have a big garden. And a seven-foot tall fence to keep out the moose.

Field Biology

One summer the Fish and Wildlife Service hired me to do stream and lake surveys on the remote and roadless Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I got to fly around in a helicopter every day and tell the pilot where to land so my crew and I could do our surveys. See, you really can do just about anything with an English Degree.

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