Tuesday, September 27, 2011

High School Tuesday

When you open the dictionary to look for the definition of male brooding teenager - you see a picture of my Art II student that I will call Mr. No.

Mr. No is tall and handsome with large girl-catching eyes and hair that falls at just the right angle.  Mr. No is always seen in classic rock t-shirts, Pink Floyd, Nirvana (classic to him), or Led Zeppelin.  Mr. No is also a negative nancy, just because.  Anything, and I mean anything, people bring up it's always (with an Elvis snarl), "No, I don't like that."  Or "No, that's lame." Or "No, I don't want to do that, go there, or date her."  I think you could hand him Avril Lavigne naked on a platter and he'd say "No" out of principle.

Which brings up our interesting conversation today.  Mr. No said, in all seriousness - of course - "I think we're all like, whatever, because we have to be here.  Like it's a law.  It's not like a job where you've got a choice.  So if we have to be here it's a whole lot better to do nothing than to do something so, whatever."  (Verbatim, adding in appropriate eye rolls and exhalations)

Teacher sigh.  But it got me thinking, what if high school were a choice?  What if kids had more say in the matter, what would they say?  How would they structure it?  I think once the free fall of chaos stopped, they'd step to the plate.  My dream high school would have looked like this:

10a.m.-11a.m. - Silent Reading
11a.m.-12p.m. - Socializing
12p.m. - 12:30 - Lunch
12:30 - 3:00 Art
3:00-3:30 French
3:30-5:00 Socialize, Snack, Eat, Ride Horses
5:00-7:00 Creative Writing
7:00-Sleep Eat, Socialize, Draw, Paint

What about you?  What would your dream schedule have been?  (And btw, that's still pretty much my dream schedule, though my writing time would be flipped to the early a.m. hours now)

High School Definition of the Day - Screamo - A form of music combining soul-growling screams performed by people that look like emos.  More devilish sounding than punk.  Prounounced with a long e.   Much loved by my Art II student with the snake bite piercings.

Wikipedia definition:  Screamo is a music genre which predominantly evolved from emo, among other genres, in the early 1990s. The term "screamo" was initially applied to a more aggressive offshoot of emo that developed in San Diego in 1991, which used short songs that grafted "spastic intensity to willfully experimental dissonance and dynamics."[1] Screamo is a particularly dissonant style of emo influenced by hardcore punk[2] and uses typical rock instrumentation, but is noted for its brief compositions, chaotic execution, and screaming vocals. The genre is "generally based in the aggressive side of the overarching punk-revival scene,"[2] although the term can be vague,[2] and other styles of music, such as post-hardcore and metalcore, are often mislabeled "screamo".[3] In addition to straightforward screamo bands, this list includes bands which playfusion genres such as crunkcore.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week 4 Check-In - WIPMadness

Hi my mad, mad friends - it's the last month of September, how'd you do with your writing goals?

I had a fairly productive month even spending some time making notes for a shiny new YA idea, but am still firmly ensconced in revision land and seem as though I'll be there for a while, with both manuscripts.  Two of our fellow madness friends' blog posts really hit home with me this weekend.

@ghostgirl aka MaryAnn over at Haunting the Broken Tree posted about "All Her WIP Children"  She dished on her manuscripts personalities and I found myself resonating with the perfectionist.  My new manuscript has been labeled "special and unique" by secret agent man, but also "needing work on voice and world-building and in today's publishing world it needs to be amazing."  No pressure there, nope, none at all.  But you heard it here first, I am actually having fun with revisions.  I think this manuscript is creating more of an inner writer than any before.  But can you say anal?  This word.  No wait.  That word.  No wait.  That word.  And on and on, ad nauseum.

@lroseriver aka Lora Rivera at her blog of the same name posted a fascinated entry on Decision Fatigue.  She gave the example of a parole judge faced with three inmates up for parole.  The first gets it granted, the second two, well here's hoping you get the morning slot next time.  Her post confirmed for me what I already know about myself, I write best in the morning.  We make millions of decisions while revising, many of them miniscule, so being fresh, fed, watered, and well-rested do make a difference.  So take care of yourself WIP friends!

This is my final hosting post.  Next month we will convene with @ls_taylor on her blog,  What I Learned Today.  Thanks for joining me for the encouragement!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Making the Bad Guys Bad and the Protagonists Stupid.

Okay, so maybe not stupid, but blinded in the moment?

I'm reading Elizabeth Bunce's A CURSE AS DARK AS GOLD and thinking about my own WIP, Marks of a Horseman, as I read. As I'm in the revision stages of a novel that is part fantasy, part dystopian, part touchy-feely, and 100% adventure, I find myself reading more as a writer than a reader these days.

How are authors getting across the particular voice of their characters? Why do we feel so deeply for certain characters and not for others?

Here are my conclusions. The bad guys must be really janky (see previous post for definition). They must give us a visceral, gut-wrenching, want to tear their eyeballs out feeling as we read them on the page. In the case of Bunce's book, it's Uncle Wheeler. He is a complex, secretive, dandy of a man who I have grown to hate with a ferocity that might have spurred me to murder if I was actually in Shearing. But what's interesting is when we met him, we weren't sure. It was possible he might be okay, but as we're led through the book, he just gets jankier and jankier. He's a great villain.

And as for Charlotte, the MC, Bunce does a fantastic job showing the reader the error of Charlotte's ways while keeping her superbly blinded to her own flaws. I find myself screaming at her, saying "No, don't be stupid!", yet she can't hear me and she steps forward into a big kettle of losing the things and ones she loves stew. But isn't that what makes us read on - we care what happens to the character? We don't want them to make those mistakes. We want things to turn out sunny, or at least resolved in a satisfactory way (which isn't always unicorns on rainbow clouds but that can be okay, too).

So in conclusion, I've decided as I revise that I'm going to look for those opportunities to pepper my antagonists with evil and sprinkle my protagonists with stupid dust. At least in the moment.

And what does it say about me as a writer that I'm rubbing my hands in anticipation of the havoc I'm about to wreak? What about you? Delivered any torture to your kind characters lately?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

High School Tuesday (on Wednesday)

It's been another wild week round the old high school frontier. Just today as a matter of fact.

The fire alarm got pulled - but the idiot pulled it during Break time instead of during class. Not much thinking there.

We've had a rash of girl fights. One in the stair well that resulted in five day suspensions for both girls (both softball players I might add). Another with one of my very own art students on the bus day before yesterday. My student laid out yesterday, worried she'd be charged with fighting, though she didn't start it. Then when she found out the other girl was running her mouth, saying she'd kicked my art student's tail, my art student came back bruising for another fight. Oh my. Boy fights this year have been practically nill. Art student got suspension from the bus for a week - way to get the parents pissed I think.

My favorite new word is "jank." As in, "Ms. J.Ro don't give me that jank paint, I want the good stuff."

Jank (adj.) long a pronunciation, rhymes with stank. Meaning - bad, nasty, definitely not wanted. (also rhymes with skank)

There you have it, YA writers, news from the hallowed halls. Use what you may. And happy writing!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 3 Check-In - WIP Madness

I hope everyone has had a productive writing week. I sort of took a week off. Not really, but I didn't do my writing mornings and changed my alarm clock from 5:00 am to 5:45 am.

What I did manage was sending my YA off to two new beta readers after mostly completed revisions. Then I managed to prowl back through one more time and fix minor ticks, including one paragraph that took an entire hour to get just right. But I'm thinking it's a good sign that I still have the stamina to read this book from beginning to end and still like it. Only problem, during the revisions I cut the scene that had the title in it. Oops. When I hear back from my readers and see their suggestions, this puppy goes back to Secret Agent Man and then hopefully will start being shopped. Fingers crossed - I need to get our tractor fixed before winter!

My agent got back to me on the first 50 of my upper MG and although he says "I'm on to something" he had some suggestions to make it sparkle. I'm glad to have some direction to approach my revisions and now that the first draft has been sitting for almost a month, it's time to reset the alarm clock for 5:00 a.m.

In other news, Homecoming was a smash success. I did a rousing rendition of "Baby Got Back" with the lyrics "I like big books" that included a surprise booty grind with our steamy hot assistant football coach. The kids went wild and afterwards I had two of my students approach me and put there hands at chest level and say "Ms. J.Ro, you were here for us before." Then they raised their hands way above their heads and said, "Now you're here." Another girl found me and said, "Ms. J.Ro, who knew you had a WILD side." Nothing like a little out and out tomfoolery to make kids laugh.

So, what about all of you? Successes? Smashes? Wish I would of's? Twitter has seemed sort of quiet this week, so I'm curious to hear from each of you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Talking with Teens about books.

What a lucky week.

One of our students decided to start a literary club for his senior project, so I decided to check it out, let him know of my "secret" life outside of being an art teacher and see if I could lend a hand. I hadn't planned on staying, but did. And it was so much fun.

3 teen girls, 1 teen guy, myself and our guidance counselor sharing our love of literature. Twilight was discussed, as were the Hunger Games Trilogy - unanimous yes by all to the latter. But then we talked about why we loved young adult fiction. Fast plots, raw emotions, and storytelling were all mentioned. And in a nod to the currently maligned contemporary genre, each kid said they really liked the opportunity to look inside someone else's life. Someone who might not be just like them.

Later in the week I asked another student, why the post-apocolypse was so compelling to young people, besides the obvious media hype of Mayan calendars, Revelations and movies like 2012. His answer was, "Sometimes I think Americans are really cocky. Some kind of catastrophe would make us all equals again. It would make things fair."

I've already decided that I'm going to help keep this club alive even after our fearless senior leader graduates. It's just too cool. And I feel so honored they want me to be a part of it. And I look forward to sharing the insights I gain from these readers. Our readers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

High School Tuesday

I've been searching for what I can do on my blog to make it be different, unique, special. Yadda. Yadda. Mostly I just like to run my mouth. But then, I realized, one thing I have going for me is I actually teach at a high school. I actually deal with those we write YA for everyday.

So here are some things I've noticed this week.

There are still obnoxious underclassmen girls who care about nothing more than having a senior guy for a boyfriend causing much consternation among the senior girls. (That girl is such a whore!)

If a guy has any waxing done, it's called manscaping. Yep. New one for me.

When your art teacher plays you her lame 80's music that was once cool (Echo and the Bunnymen, The Tom Tom Club, Elvis Costello) you must bump her music on GrooveShark with your own Lil' Wayne, Death for my Valentine, and Avril Lavigne songs. Then act shocked when your teacher actually goes along with it.

The cliques are still alive and well. Preps still have money. Goths still have attitude. Band kids are still band kids.

Boyfriends and girlfriends are made and unmade in a day.

Gay kids are far more accepted. Some are out, some are just known, some are bad-mouthed, but at least at my school, they are just part of the fabric.

Everybody wants to know if Lady Gaga is really a man. Do you know?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

WIP Madness - September Week 2 Check-In

Hello Weeps? Wips? Mad-Hatters? No, cross all those out.

Fellow travelers on the path.

Ah, whatever. It's late. I am gearing up for Homecoming week at my high school where hormones will be as fragrant as the hot dogs cooked up by the FFA club. We have dress up days and door decoration contests and celebrations and blow-up jumpy games and lest we not forget the reason for the madness - a football game. I am deep in the South, where in a rural town, the high school games are as close as you get to the pros. These folks take their football serious. Me...yeah, you guessed right. *looks left, then right, then whispers* I could care less.

But - I love my students and this week is all about them and so it is with great joy, I can say I actually finished my YA revisions. I thought it was going to be way more intense but I managed to get all the way through the manuscript in about 3 weeks total. I lost 1000 words and the scene that contained the title, but hey, it's off to two beta readers and then hopefully back to El Agento.

So my goal for this week - take a little break if I can because I'll need all my energy for my job and the teenagers. Oh I imagine, the upper MG will pull me back to poke and pry at its inner workings and I have beta reading to do in the evening, but I'm sort of enjoying the concept of some chill time. And of course, introducing the advanced color wheel.

Speak fellow travelers! Tell me of your journeys! And if you ask real nice, I'll post pictures of my door decorations and me in my "I Like Big Books - Info-Maniac" t-shirt that the Drama teacher had made for our faculty parody of the song, "I Like Big Butts." How in blue blazes did I end up back in high school?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Thanks Ladies!

This past week I had the great, good fortune to receive not one, but two blog awards. And I am so utterly overwhelmed between Homecoming week at school and revising two manuscripts for my agent, along with reading for a few friends (which is work of the heart and I can't give it up!), I just can't play along and pass along.

I DO want say go check out these blogs!

WIPMadness Tweep, Girl Parker, awarded me the Leibster award. You can find her at her GirlParker Typepad blog.

WIPMadness and Blogfest pal, Lora Rivera, awarded me with the 7x7 Link Award. You can find her at Lora Rivera: Inside Writing.

Thanks again for thinking of me!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Goofy Inside Revealed

It's confession time again. Where I come clean to all of cyber-land or at least the sweet handful of followers, known as you.

Here it is.

I. Love. Getting. E-mails. From. MY. AGENT.

That's it. Even when it's a gang e-mail informing all of his clients that he's going to be out of the office and that he's just had his first post-summer offer and that we should all 'Keep Writing!' I LOVE IT.

So in honor of my sugary-cry-at-Hallmark-commercial-happiness, please enjoy one of my

favorite songs.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Our Labors of Love

Hello WIP Madness peeps and tweeps - I realize it's only been four days since we stated our goals, but I thought Labor Day was a perfect place to start our weekly check-in's. I know from watching on Twitter that some of you made word count progress, there were race-to-the-end challenges, and some frustrations.

I'm knee deep in what has thus far been the ickiest part of the job to me - revisions - but I'm faring well with mixed feelings. Marks of a Horseman, my upper MG adventure, is really becoming strong thanks to incredibly insightful critique partners with spot-on suggestions and observations. I should be able to get that first 50 pages sent to my agent by the end of next week and I'm really excited to hear what he says. Unlike the other things I've written, MOH falls on the commercial end of the spectrum and in today's market that makes me hopeful. I still have another 200 pages to revise, but it's a start.

My other manuscript, my YA LGBT book - CAST IN GOLD - is also in revision stages based on some of my agent's suggestions. But here I'm faced with uncertainty and doubt. Are the motivations clear? Is there enough of an axis for the novel to spin around? It is contemporary and somewhat quiet - there are no demons to slay - so the revision is more difficult. An uttered phrase here, an interjection there, it is the tiny points that will make or break this one and it is terrifying. I adore my main character and I want to give her the best chance possible to be introduced to readers.

So, did anyone get any work done since last Thursday? I'm done for the day and am actually going to spend some time in a darkened movie theatre this afternoon. I've been angsting to see THE HELP and today's the day. Loving my three day weekend!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


September has arrived and it is time for me to take the torch from the lovely Angelina C. Hansen at the YAScribe blog.

I joined WIP Madness back in March when Denise Jaden first posted about it at Verla Kay's Blue Boards. This tool for networking, encouragement, and accountability has helped me finish two manuscripts, gain critique partners, and get an agent.

I love checking the Twitter hashtag, #wipmadness, to see how each of you are doing with your books.

This month, my goals are to get the first 50 pages of my most recent WIP whipped in to great enough shape to send to my agent and brainstorm story arcs for the next two books of a potential trilogy. I'm also doing light revisions on another YA that I'm about halfway through. Of course I'd love to finish both, but with a new job at our high school (having moved from elementary) I'm finding my time is really pressed between just planning and doing stuff with the art club.

So how about you? What are your goals? Your challenges? Your roadblocks? I look forward to hearing from you all in our journey along the MADNESS path.