Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Keeping it real?

I woke up this morning and found this in my blogger comments:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Blurb from Ellen Wittlinger":

"Without a bit of preaching..." - Why is it whenever anyone dares to take an unpopular position on a controversial moral topic in our society, their ideas are described as didactic, dogmatic, preachy, or any other apparently negative label? With all the destructive sexual activities and misinformation plaguing young adults in America, it would be immensely helpful if those with the power of the pen would use their gift to steer some attitudes in the right direction rather than be content with "keeping it real".


Dear Anonymous (if you're reading this),

I tend to ignore anonymous comments, but this one is actually interesting, so I plan to reply...but not today. I'm sorry, but I'm just too swamped with other things right now to reply, especially when I don't even know who's making the comment. However, you may want to drop a line to my editor; I'm sure he'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter. In addition, I would suggest emailing my friends as the AS IF blog; they commonly deal with issues such as yours. And of course, I have a lot of writer-friends, and they are welcome to post a reply of their own, if they wish.

And Anonymous, just for the purposes of discussion, could you please post a few books by authors that you consider to "use their gift to steer some attitudes in the right direction rather than be content with 'keeping it real'"? Thanks.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Good Stuff

We received another blurb this week, this time from author-extraordinaire Cynthia Leitich Smith.

"My Life as a Rhombus is a sensitive and powerful friendship story about two very different girls who connect over the toughest decision either of them will ever make. In his YA debut, author Varian Johnson offers a realistic, heartfelt, and thoughtful take on unplanned teen pregnancy from the perspective of a young math whiz trying to reconcile her future and past."

I've never told Cynthia this, but I the first time I saw her in person (at the 2004 Austin SCBWI Conference), I didn't have the courage to speak to her. I mean, she's Cynthia Leitich Smith--and I was just a lowly, unpublished author. Anyway, about a year later, after meeting her husband, Greg, at another SCBWI event, she sent me the following email:

Dear Varian,
How is it that I don't know you yet? ;-)

I'm happy to report that two years later, I'm privileged to call her both a friend and a mentor.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Blurb from Ellen Wittlinger

Ellen Wittlinger, the award-winning author of Hard Love, was gracious enough to blurb My Life as a Rhombus. She says:

"Without a bit of preaching, Varian Johnson gives us a story of two teenage girls who are faced with the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. Teens will love the emotional peaks and valleys of the tale and be gratified by the conclusion."

As you can imagine, I'm very, very, happy.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows how much I respect Ellen Wittlinger's work; Hard Love is one of the main reasons I started writing YA in the first place. I also respect that Ellen doesn't shy away from tough topics, such as transgendered teens in Parrotfish or oral sex in Sandpiper.

FYI -- for all of you Hard Love fans out there, check out Ellen's faq page. It looks like we can expect more from Marisol and Gio.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Pie Charts, Footnotes & Doodles - Oh My!

Yours truly has an article in this year's Writer's Digest You Can Write for Children Magazine titled "Pie Charts, Footnotes & Doodles -- Oh My!" The article is about how to best include supplementary items (such as footnotes) in your fiction without alienating the reader, and includes advice from a number of best-selling and award winning authors, including Ellen Wittlinger, E. Lockhart, and Lisa Yee.

FYI -- I'll be giving a presentation on the same topic at the February Austin SCBWI meeting.

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