Books That Are a Breath of Fresh Air

I’m 33 weeks into my pregnancy, so I’m entering the lovely stage where I’m uncomfortable all the time and am finding it difficult to breathe. I was sitting on the couch reading my book, taking yet another deep breath, and thought, “I should write a post about books that are a breath of fresh air.” Since I’m often winded, I think it’s fitting ;)

I’ve included these books for a variety of reasons. I considered the way topics were approached, the way characters are written, the way authors deviated from the norm, etc. Which books would you add to this list?

Winger by Andrew Smith–Ryan Dean’s story was the first book I thought of because of how Andrew Smith wrote him. I’ve taught quite a few fourteen-year-old boys over the past seven years. Ryan Dean is written exactly like a fourteen-year-old boy and I love that. Too often characters are written with adult voices and that’s not the case for Ryan. I think it’s one of the many reasons why Winger has been such a hit with both my underclassmen and upperclassmen.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White–Paranormal YA is nothing new and Kiersten White’s debut has been out since 2010, but I still think it’s a nice change from the typical paranormal fare. Evie, the main character, isn’t busy pining away over some guy in her biology class. She’s working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency and prides herself on doing her job well. She’s pretty and girly and there is a love angle to the story, but it’s also funny and witty and original.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray–I’m more than halfway through the audio and can’t begin to explain how much I love this book. I’m purposely taking my time listening to it because it’s that good. And honestly, I could go on and on about why this book is such a breath of fresh air. The satire is spot on. The list of big issues being tackled in a very smart way is impressive. It’s simply a great book.

Party by Tom Leveen–By no fault of their own, teenagers are very self-centered. Yes, they think about others and do amazing things for others, but much of being a teenager is about figuring out who you are and worrying about yourself. The reason I say this, and I don’t mean any of that in a negative way, is because I don’t think a teen will necessarily think about every single person at a party (or in a classroom) and what their individual story is. Or how stories and paths might cross. Tom Leveen addresses this in Party. We are taken to a party and see that party through the eyes of eleven characters. We see how their paths cross and what’s really going on with each individual. It’s eye-opening for many of my students and has made them think more about others and what other people are going through.

I Know It’s Over by C.K. Kelly Martin–There are plenty of YA books that deal with teen pregnancy, but not many that I  know of–other than Jumping Off Swings and Living With Jackie Chan–that are told from the father’s perspective. I had mixed feelings overall about this book, but it was still refreshing to read about how Nick deals with the unsettling news that his ex-girlfriend is pregnant and what she plans to do about it. This is also a book that I’ve had to replace every year since I originally bought it three years ago.

But I Love Him by Amanda Grace–Another common story told in YA is about abusive relationships. When my students read books about that they often tell me when they would leave and how they would never put up with a relationship like that. I’m always happy to hear that, but I also know from other students that it’s not always that simple. What I love about this book is that it isn’t told in chronological order. Because of this, there isn’t an easy spot for a reader to say, “I would have left him then.” It’s given a number of my students pause after reading it.

Every Day by David Levithan–I don’t know if I really need to explain why I’m including this book. I haven’t read anything else like it which makes it really difficult to help my students find a new book to read when they finish this and want something else like it.

My Life After Now by Jessica Verdi–Jessica Verdi’s debut made the list because of the topic she wrote about. For some this may be a spoiler, but like I stated in my review, I think it will draw in more readers if you know what the character’s dilemma is. Lucy, the main character, contracts HIV. I haven’t read or heard of any other YA novels that feature a character getting or living with HIV, so that’s why I included this title.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon–Cancer books. There are SO MANY. And they often make a reader ugly cry which is one of the reasons I typically avoid them. This is not that book. Hollis Seamon’s debut made me snort with laughter and look at hospice and cancer in a very different way. One of my seniors read this and told me that he felt guilty for laughing so much. I laughed quite a few times, although a few scenes invoked tears. But would else is there to expect from a book about a teen who has terminal cancer?

nErDcampMI

I went to nErDcampMI on Tuesday, it’s Friday Monday (Yeah, life got in the way of this. Sigh.), and I feel like everyone has already said everything I could say or want to say. Yet I still feel the need to blog about it.

I guess I’ll start out with how I initially felt about it last year. I was skeptical. The idea of going to a conference and not knowing what I was going to get out of it (not knowing what sessions would be offered) made me hesitant. It was going to be almost a two hour drive, plus on that day I had two job interviews. But quite a few of my friends were going to be there, so I asked my best friend Lindsay (@LMGrady)  to come along and see what it was all about. It ended up being a really cool experience and for that reason I attended again this year.

This year was better. Despite getting up pretty early to drive to Parma, MI, I was excited to attend the entire day. It’s been a crazy summer so I skipped day one which had planned sessions and speakers. I really liked the un-conference approach to nErDcamp (teachers deciding on the spot what they want to present and which sessions they want to attend), so I knew Tuesday was the day to go.

Lindsay came with me again and we spent a lot of time hanging out with Jessica (@JCrawford728). I’ll admit that meeting up with friends I don’t see very often is a pretty big influence to attend these conferences. Spending some time with Lea (@leakelley), Cindy (@CBethM), Erica (@B10LovesBooks), and Jessica made for an excellent day. Even better? I had the pleasure of presenting with Cindy on Diverse Lit for Diverse YA Readers (session notes). I also saw Lindsay break out of her presentation comfort zone and present with Jessica on What Does Reading and Writing Workshop Look Like in High School (session notes).

The highlight of my day was presenting with Cindy. She and I are working on ideas to get YA Lit 101 started again this summer with a focus on the need for diverse lit. This was an opportunity for us to flesh out ideas, and more importantly, see what other teachers are looking for and reading. It was a full room and almost every single teacher had a title to offer or praise. We furiously wrote down titles and categories on the board and quickly ran out of room. I left the session excited, rejuvenated, and really wanting to read some diverse titles! And since it’s now Monday, almost a week later, I’m going to shorten this post up and leave with you some tweets/pictures about the session to wrap it up. I completely lost my momentum after sitting on this for so many days.

Celebration of books

 

Diverse readers tweet

Session Board

 

Session tweets

 

Session tweet favorite

 

Review: The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

The Scar BoysTitle: The Scar Boys

Author: Len Vlahos

Publisher: Egmont USA

Release Date: January 21st, 2014

Interest: Realistic fiction / Music

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads):

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock ‘n’ roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world…even if you carry scars inside and out. 

In attempting to describe himself in his college application essay–help us to become acquainted with you beyond your courses, grades, and test scores–Harbinger (Harry) Jones goes way beyond the 250-word limit and gives a full account of his life. 

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality. 

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry’s description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he’s looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

I can’t remember how The Scar Boys was brought to my attention as a book to read, but I’m happy that it was. It’s a book that my musicians and music fans will adore, but it’s also a book for my students who are looking for a solid story. I’m surprised more of my Goodreads friends don’t have this on their to-read shelf.

Something I liked most about Len Vlahos‘ debut is Harry’s voice. It’s distinct and one that caught my attention right away. He’s writing a college essay and decides to go way beyond the 250-word limit. I’ve read books like this before, but Harry’s story is quite different. As I read farther into The Scar Boys I realized that I was spending more time in Harry’s head than I typically do in a novel. I noticed that I wasn’t reading a lot of action scenes and a lot of dialogue; I was perfectly okay with that. It was refreshing.

Readers will really get to know Harry. They’ll get to know his fears, his desires, his taste in music, and more. His scars have left him severely deformed and insecure, but music becomes an outlet for him. Like music does for many people, it helps Harry escape and connect. The coming of age story arc ties in perfectly with Harry and his growth as he participates in the band. Being in the band puts Harry in scenarios he may not normally confront like learning to stand up for himself, putting himself in front of a crowd, and taking a risk on love. Without the band, I think Harry would have stayed hidden within himself.

The Scar Boys reminded me of what a Chris Crutcher book would be like if he wrote more about musicians than athletes. So if you enjoy Crutcher, books full of music references, road trips and more, then I recommend reading this.

Review: The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel

The Break-Up ArtistTitle: The Break-Up Artist

Author: Philip Siegel

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Release Date: April 29th, 2014

Interest: Contemp / Debut author

Source: ARC received from the author

Summary (From Goodreads):

Some sixteen-year-olds babysit for extra cash.

Some work at the mall.

Becca Williamson breaks up couples.

Becca knows from experience the damage that love can do. After all, it was so-called love that turned Huxley from her childhood best friend into a social-world dictator, and love that left Becca’s older sister devastated at the altar. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Becca strikes back—for just one hundred dollars via PayPal, she will trick and manipulate any couple’s relationship into smithereens. And with relationship zombies overrunning her school and treating single girls as if they’re second-class citizens, business is unfortunately booming. Even Becca’s best friend, Val, has resorted to outright lies to snag a boyfriend.

One night, Becca receives a mysterious offer to break up the most popular couple in school: Huxley and raw football team’s star player, Steve. To succeed, she’ll have to plan her most elaborate scheme to date—starting rumors, sabotaging cell phones, breaking into cars…not to mention sneaking back into Huxley’s good graces. All while fending off the inappropriate feelings she may or may not be having for Val’s new boyfriend.

No one said being the Break-Up Artist would be easy.

The Break-Up Artist by Philip Siegel is light-hearted and full of snark and wit. There were plenty of parts in the book that made me laugh out loud. Here are a couple examples that made me laugh while reading the ARC:

From page 104 of the ARC: “Everything Ezra says needs cheesy background music and sparkles. I wonder if his mom read him greeting cards as a baby

From page 216 of the ARC: “Am I missing the girl gene that forces me to aww whenever I see something corny? Or was there a mass lobotomy I wasn’t invited to?” 

I think those are both solid examples of Becca’s snark. There were times when I felt she was a little too cynical, but overall I had fun reading this.

Every year I have a sizable amount of students, both male and female, who don’t want to read love stories. This is a book I’d hand them. Sure, there’s some love in the story of course. It’s about Becca breaking couples up! But it’s more about Becca figuring out what love means while not being in a relationship. It’s about the relationships she has with her friends and family.

I think one of the reasons I liked The Break-Up Artist and why I think my students will is because it felt true to high school. I don’t remember there being as many couples in my high school as Becca’s, but I remember feeling like everyone was finding a boyfriend and going out on dates besides me. High school is such a restricted bubble that it’s not wonder I felt that way. I can’t imagine it’s that much different now for my students. I don’t know of a break-up artist in the school where I teach, but I hear about the relationship drama on an almost regular basis. I think Siegel did a nice job capturing that same drama in Becca’s story.

FOREIGN EXCHANGE Cover Reveal and ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER Giveaway!

I’m very excited to be part of Denise Jaden’s cover reveal for her upcoming release Foreign Exchange. This is extra exciting for me because one of my students connected with Denise a few years back after reading Losing Faith. Through this connection, my student started reading parts of Foreign Exchange as a beta reader and Denise used her name for a character in the book (Tristan Bishop). So cool! :)

Thank you, Denise, for letting me take part in the cover reveal and the giveaway of your copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After!

Here are a few of Denise’s thoughts on Foreign Exchange and its cover…

I’m so incredibly excited to share my cover of Foreign Exchange with you! This book holds a very special place in my heart. I wrote it during a very difficult year of my life, and the characters and their stories were a real bright spot for me.

Because this book is so important to me, I’m giving away something VERY important to me to go along with this cover reveal. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy of the highly-anticipated Isla and the Happily Ever After by one of my all-time favorite authors, Stephanie Perkins. ISLA and Foreign Exchange are both romances with swoon-worthy boys, and they’re both set partially in Europe. So I want one lucky person to receive my advanced copy of ISLA in to get you excited for Foreign Exchange!

Read on, check out my cover, and read the first chapter of Foreign Exchange below. It’ll all help you in earning extra entries to win my copy of Isla and the Happily Ever After!

And here is the beautiful cover…

 

Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend’s hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.

 

As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust—Sawyer. 

 

 “Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can’t miss read.”

 - Eileen Cook  Author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries. 

“A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry kept me turning those pages!”

- Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore

“Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful…the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare.”

 - D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the upcoming Noir et Bleu MC series.

 

One of the entries in the Rafflecopter below will ask you a question from the above chapter!

This contest is open internationally!

Don’t forget…this copy of ISLA could be yours…

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

* Note – If you cannot access the Rafflecopter Widget through this blog, access it HERE.

Waiting on Wednesday–Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

wow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

My husband and I are in the process of preparing for our first child to be born (we’re having a little boy!) and we’re in the process of getting our house ready to sell. Life is a little hectic in our neck of the woods. Consequently, I’m trying my best to save money which means I’m buying fewer books. Let’s be honest, it’s not like I don’t have enough books to read in my house! :) HOWEVER. Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn just might be one of the few books I let myself buy this summer because it sounds THAT GOOD.

ComplicitTitle & Author: Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Release Date: June 24th, 2014

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Summary (From Goodreads):

Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell. 

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

 

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

To All the Boys I've Loved BeforeTitle: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Release Date: April 15th, 2014

Interest: Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

I love it when I find the right book for the right moment. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was that book. I’m not sure what it is right now, but lately I’ve only been interested in reading contemps that are on the lighter side. Lara Jean’s story couldn’t have fit any better.

I’ve never read any of Jenny Han’s books, but after reading this I’ll be sure to get my hands on the rest of her books. I really enjoyed Lara Jean’s story because her voice is very much that of a junior in high school. She’s a little on the innocent side of the spectrum, which I found to be a breath of a fresh air. That innocence fits her character perfectly because she’s basically been raised by her older sister since her mother died. Lara Jean is very much a middle child who works hard to be responsible like her father and older sister want her to be and her younger sister needs her to be. She also spends a great deal of time thinking about Margot (her older sister), focusing on two of the guys in her life Josh and Peter, and taking care of her little sister Kitty and her dad.

Lara Jean’s focus on everyone else added well to the conflicts of the story, but it also drew away from her character. By the end of the story I knew I really liked the book and want to read the second one, but I don’t feel like I know Lara Jean as well as I think I should. I know that she is devoted to her family. I know that she’s a romantic at heart. I also know that she wants to take risks. But I don’t know as much about her personal interests and passions besides her family and close friends. I really hope to learn more about her in the second book which is currently titled P.S. I Still Love You.

While I wanted to know Lara Jean a little better, I did love the cast of characters in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. Kitty is absolutely adorable and a great addition to the story. She’s one of the reasons why Lara Jean’s family works so hard to keep their Korean traditions alive despite the fact that their father isn’t Korean and that their mother has passed away. I liked both Peter and Josh, but I think I enjoyed Peter’s character just a little bit more. He along with Kitty added a nice amount of humor to the story.

I do have to admit that I’m not wholly satisfied with the ending, and I know I’m supposed to feel that way. Sure, it fits with the story, but it left so much unanswered! Some pieces of the conflict are resolved at least. I’m really happy there’s a sequel, but I really wish I didn’t have to wait until 2015 for it!

I’m not sure how many of my students will be able to read my copy of Jenny Han’s latest before the school year ends, but I know it will be a big hit next school year.

Student Book Reviews: The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner

Since bringing my ARC of The Summer of Letting Go into my classroom, my senior girls have been passing it around quite a bit. It’s been such a favorite this year that three of my students wrote mini book reviews for Gae Polisner’s sophomore release.

Title: The Summer of Letting Go

Author: Gae Polisner

Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

The Summer of Letting GoSummary (From Goodreads):

Just when everything seems to be going wrong, hope and love can appear in the most unexpected places.

Summer has begun, the beach beckons and Francesca Schnell is going nowhere. Four years ago, Francesca’s little brother, Simon, drowned, and Francesca is the one who should have been watching. Now Francesca is about to turn sixteen, but guilt keeps her stuck in the past. Meanwhile, her best friend, Lisette, is moving on most recently with the boy Francesca wants but can’t have. At loose ends, Francesca trails her father, who may be having an affair, to the local country club. There she meets four-year-old Frankie Sky, a little boy who bears an almost eerie resemblance to Simon, and Francesca begins to wonder if it’s possible Frankie could be his reincarnation. Knowing Frankie leads Francesca to places she thought she’d never dare to go and it begins to seem possible to forgive herself, grow up, and even fall in love, whether or not she solves the riddle of Frankie Sky.

Student Reviewer: Alyssa

Student Review:

This book may turn some people away by the love story and what not, but what makes this story so interesting is the aspect nobody tends to think or talk about. The idea of reincarnation.

Francesca Schnell’s story of her brothers passing is absolutely heart breaking. Definitely not something you’d ever wish upon someone, especially a child. Her struggle through getting over it is never ending. Once Frankie Sky, a boy she babysits, comes into her life, everything changes. The fact that her brother could have reincarnated into Frankie Sky is something so unbelievable and makes you wish it could happen in your life. This books pursues a different way of making people knowledgable on the topic of reincarnation. The ups and downs and the adventure of finding this all out is a journey worth reading about. The love aspect of this book is just the cherry on top of it all for me. I give this five stars!

Student Reviewer: Morgan

Student Review:

The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner ws not only a story of moving forward from the past, but also a story of love and friendship. I loved every part of this book, from the cute and daring personality of Frankie Sky, to the conflict Francesca faces in leaving behind the guilt of her brother’s death. I enjoyed the way the story would tie into other parts of the book with Francesca’s past and her younger brother Simon. Every page was entertaining and kept me hoping for more. When it came to tense parts, my heart would start racing as if the story were my own life. I consider this book the best that I have read so far and would highly recommend it to anyone interested in stories of friendship or stories about moving on from the past.

Student Reviewer: Kayla

Student Review:

I absolutely loved this book. It’s 316 pages long and I read it in two days, which never happens. The book takes you to multiple places, from a love story to a story about religion and different beliefs. As cliche as it sounds, I honestly believe this book changed the way I think. I grew up believing that heaven was the only way after death. This book opened my eyes to a whole new world. While I know The Summer of Letting Go is fiction, I connected with it it because I’ve been questioning things. It is a very insightful book that I would recommend to those who enjoy impossible love stories.

We Are the Goldens Blog Tour: Teen Writing Advice

Dana Reinhardt’s newest novel, We Are the Goldens, released on Tuesday. To celebrate this release she’s participating in a five day blog tour. As an English teacher and reading enthusiast, I asked her to share some writing advice for teens. Her advice is spot on! This post doesn’t necessarily advertise We Are the Goldens, but it adds to the already great impression Dana has made as an admirable YA author.

P.S. This is a powerful book that you’ll want to read and share with your readers! I’ll post my review soon :)

We Are The GoldensSummary (From Goodreads):

Nell knows a secret about her perfect, beautiful sister Layla. If she tells, it could blow their world apart.

When Nell and Layla were little, Nell used to call them Nellaya. Because to Nell, there was no difference between where she started and her adored big sister ended. They’re a unit; divorce made them rely on each other early on, so when one pulls away, what is the other to do? But now, Nell’s a freshman in high school and Layla is changing, secretive. And then Nell discovers why. Layla is involved with one of their teachers. And even though Nell tries to support Layla, to understand that she’s happy and in love, Nell struggles with her true feelings: it’s wrong, and she must do something about it.

**Dana Reinhardt’s Writing Advice for Teens**

I don’t consider myself to be in the advice business, though it was a career I contemplated at an early age. When I was a teenager I went through a phase of forgoing People in favor of Psychology Today at the newsstand. I remember Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip sitting in her little booth with the sign “ADVICE 5 cents” or alternately “Psychiatric Help 5 cents”. She always looked forlorn and lonely, chin in hand, waiting for customers who never showed. Maybe this is part of what ultimately discouraged me from a career in psychology, though I have to believe the rigors of medical school also played a role. So I went back to reading People.
But advice for teen writers? I guess that’s something I can handle. Something about which I might have something to say. It isn’t anything earth-shattering. I don’t have a magic solution, nothing like: Use the force, Luke. My advice is simple, and it’s the same advice most writers give to young people who want to write:

READ.

Read everything. Read to know what you love and read to know what you don’t. Find the writers who speak to you and ask yourself why this is the kind of book you hold close to your chest and part with only to lend to a kindred soul who will love this story the way you do. Find the writers whose stories ring false, the sorts of stories where you can almost hear the click-clacking of the writer’s keyboard because he never fully inhabited the world his characters do. Read to know the genre where you feel at home, and then read outside of that genre because great writing transcends genre.
Here’s my second piece of advice. Again, nothing particularly new:

WRITE.

Write all the time. Write in a journal. Write letters to your friends. Write stories or poems or blog entries or, why not try writing a novel? So what if it only amounts to ten pages? At least you tried. And when you write, remember not to follow any of the rules you’ve learned in English class. (Sorry, English teachers!) Don’t pay attention to punctuation or fragmented sentences. And speaking of sentences, don’t think about topic sentences or supporting sentences or concluding sentences. Break every rule you know. Do not play it safe. Write like nobody will ever read what you’ve written but you. Don’t think of an audience. Don’t wonder what would my English teacher say about this? (Sorry, again, English teachers.) And then, when you have something you’re proud of, show it to someone. Maybe that friend with whom you shared that treasured book.

You are lucky. You have loads of time to find your voice. You can fail spectacularly. In fact, you must fail spectacularly. And when you do, go outside and get some fresh air. Do something fun. And then, pull out a blank piece of paper (or open up a new document on your desktop screen) and try again.

Dana Reinhardt

**Author Info**

Dana Reinhardt’s website
Follow her on Twitter

My Last Kiss Blog Tour–Writing Advice

MLK_Blog_Tour_banner

I’m excited to be part of Bethany Neal’s blog tour for her debut novel My Last Kiss. Today’s stop on the blog tour features Bethany’s writing advice. Hopefully this will helpful to teachers/students/aspiring authors. Thanks, Bethany! :)

My Last Kiss releases on June 10th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

MY_LAST_KISS_final_coverSummary (From Goodreads):

What if your last kiss was with the wrong boy? 

Cassidy Haines remembers her first kiss vividly. It was on the old covered bridge the summer before her freshman year with her boyfriend of three years, Ethan Keys. But her last kiss–the one she shared with someone at her seventeenth birthday party the night she died–is a blur. Cassidy is trapped in the living world, not only mourning the loss of her human body, but left with the grim suspicion that her untimely death wasn’t a suicide as everyone assumes. She can’t remember anything from the weeks leading up to her birthday and she’s worried that she may have betrayed her boyfriend. 

If Cassidy is to uncover the truth about that fateful night and make amends with the only boy she’ll ever love, she must face her past and all the decisions she made–good and bad–that led to her last kiss.

Bethany Neal’s suspenseful debut novel is about the power of first love and the haunting lies that threaten to tear it apart.

**Bethany Neal’s Writing Advice**

Giving writing advice is a tricky thing. Everybody has their own process and techniques that work for them. And a writer’s process evolves as he/she grows and develops his/her skills. So, giving cut and dry advice on how to write seems counterproductive to me.

There have been many times where I’ve read an article in a magazine or on a website and thought I’d found the cure-all for my writerly woes. And sometimes the advice does help, but it’s usually only a temporary fix for a specific scene or type of book I’m writing at that particular moment.

That’s great and helpful at that time, but I want advice that is helpful all the time. Don’t you?! Something I can always lean back on and utilize to get me through the rough patches of writing—and, trust me, the road to publication is as potholed as my neighborhood streets after the crushing winter we’ve had.

So here it is, the one piece of advice every writer must take and apply daily in order to succeed: Believe in your work.

It sounds so simple, but it is the single most difficult thing you’ll ever attempt. Especially when rejections start rolling in (and they do for everyone at some point in his/her career). It requires constant reminders and sticky notes on your computer monitor (and sometimes bathroom mirror) to assure yourself that your writing is not only good enough but worthy of publishing.

You might feel as if you’re tooting your own horn when you tell yourself these things, but you should be tooting that horn of yours, darn it! Writing is hard and stressful and takes immense dedication, and you are doing it. You deserve a frickin’ orchestra of horns tooting in your honor! But, alas, publishing is more times than not a strings section playing one of those mournful tunes that Russian figure skaters perform to. You need to hold your own horn high in order to get noticed.

But my advice to believe in yourself and your writing is not all streamers and self-help hoorays. There’s a specific practice you can add to your daily writing ritual that will help you gain confidence in your work.

Before you start a new project, make a list of reasons why this story needs to be told and keep it nearby as you write so you can reference it. Tape it to the wall in your office or your desk, your laptop, your forearm, wherever you need to put it to remind yourself why what you’re writing is important.

Then when you’re at the midpoint of your book or story (and probably experiencing a growing amount of fatigue and doubt), make another list. This one is made up of reasons why readers will love your story. If you have trouble making this one, pull the nearest unsuspecting family member aside and ask him/her to tell you about their favorite book, movie, or TV show. If it’s a real good one, you’ll start to pick up on the types of things that readers crave like charismatic, complex characters or a sticky plot hook or ultra cool setting that feels like a character itself. You can also analyze your own favorite if there aren’t any other humans nearby.

Note, this step can also serve as a Litmus test to see if your idea is worth powering through to the end. Not all story ideas are. Sad, but true. If you can’t think of at least three reasons why anyone other than you would enjoy reading what you’re writing—and you am to be published someday—it’s time to shelve the project and move on to the next one keeping the boys in the basement occupied.

Finally, when you’ve typed the two most glorious words in an author’s vocabulary, The End, write a third list. This list is of all the obstacles you overcame in order to complete your opus. This last list will give you the confidence to press forward into the real business of writing. Rewriting.

I make all three of these lists for everything I write. It keeps me motivated, moving forward, and sometimes even throws up a red flag that what I’m writing isn’t a good fit. That can be the most important lesson of all. Knowing what not to write is just as important as—and critical in the progression to—writing a best-seller.

Bethany_Neal_Author

**Author Info**

Bethany Neal writes YA novels with a little dark side and a lot of kissing from her Ann Arbor, Michigan home. The things she is obsessed with include, but are not limited to: nail polish, ginormous rings, pigs, dream analysis, memorizing song lyrics, pickles, dessert, predestined love, not growing up, sour gummy candies, music videos, Halloween, and fictional boys who play guitar.

MY LAST KISS is her first novel. Connect with her online at www.bethanyneal.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @BethDazzled.

**Blog Tour Schedule**

May 26:                        The Fantastic Flying Book Club, Welcome post
Day 1- May 27:          Word Spelunking, Top 10 Kisses (t/o pop culture) numbers 6-10
Reading Teen, Top 10 Kisses (t/o pop culture) numbers 1-5
Day 2- May 28:          YA Love, Writing Advice
Day 3- May 29:          YAdult Review, Top 6 Bad Boys (who aren’t so bad)
Day 4- May 30:          Book Loving Me, Story Inspiration
Day 5- May 31:          Broke & Bookish, Top 7 Ghost Stories
Day 6- June 1:           Tales of a Ravenous Reader, Pinterest Inspiration Board
                                        YA Reads, Easter Egg Hunt
Day 7- June 2:           Michelle & Leslie’s Book Picks, Musical Inspiration
                                        Miss-PageTurner’s City of Books, Behind the Pages
Day 8- June 3:           Supernatural Snark, Character Interview, Ethan
                                        GUEST POST: First Kiss Stories, Amy Plum’s Blog
Day 9- June 4:           The Hiding Spot, Q&A
                                         Reader Girls, Ghostly “Rules”
Day 10- June 5:         Book Addicts Guide, Open Interview
                                         Anna Reads, My First Fictional Crush
Day 11- June 6:         Lady Reader’s BookStuff, Playlist Reveal
Day 12- June 7:         Books As You Know It, Q&A
                                         Book Rat, Character Interview, Cassidy
Day 13- June 8:         Proud Book Nerd, Characters Theme Songs
                                        Girls in the Stacks, Podcast
Day 14- June 9:         Literary Rambles, Interview/Review & signed book giveaway
                                        YA Sisterhood, Top 10 Fictional Crushes
Day 15- June 10:      The Best Books Ever, Origin Story
Day 16 June 11:        Fantastic Flying Book Club, Swag Giveaway & Review

**Upcoming Author Signings**

MY LAST KISS Launch Party!!!
When
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
7pm
Where 
Nicola’s Books 
2513 Jackson Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Details
Join Bethany in publication day festivities! There will be cake, swag giveaways, and the signing of many books. 

Michigan Author Event

When
Saturday, June 14, 2014
2-4pm
Where 
Barnes & Noble 
3311 Tittabawassee Rd.
Saginaw, MI 48604
Details
Visit Bethany and fellow YAer Aimee Carter in the Teen section during this store wide event featuring Michigan authors from varying genres. 

Up North 2-Day Event: Signing/Writing Workshop 

SIGNING
When
Friday, June 20, 2014
2-4pm
Where 
McLean & Eakin Bookstore 
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770

WORKSHOP
When
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Time 10am-12pm
Where 
McLean & Eakin Bookstore 
307 E. Lake St.
Petoskey, MI 49770
Details
Call McLean & Eakin for more information (231) 347-1180.

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