Valentine's Day Eve / 10 Reasons I Love to Read Y.A. Fiction!

My daughter informed me this evening that it was the night before Valentine's Day. She was wondering if we got to do anything special to celebrate. That struck me as funny at first, but after a bit of reflection it seemed appropriate to write about love on Valentine's Eve.  So here you go: 10 reasons why I love to read Y.A. Fiction.  Please feel free to add your own reasons in the comments below!

1) Optimism! Y.A. protagonists are full of hope. They have so much life ahead of them that they are (usually) looking forward instead of backward.

2) Time-Travel! Reading a good Y.A. book is like stepping into a time machine. It's so much fun to "go back" to high school without actually having to do homework, eat cafeteria food, and stress about your peers.

3) Hobbies! I love when a book immerses you in some one else's expertise! Reading is a great way to gain insight to different hobbies and sports (Raku pottery, film making, wizardry, martial arts, mountain biking,  poetry, etc.)

4) First person!  The bulk of Y.A. fiction is written in first person and something about that makes me feel more connected to the main character than second or third.

5) Love! I enjoy reading about people falling in love for the first time. For those of us who have journals (embarrassing should-be-burned journals) this is a much less painful way to remember those early feelings and the humorous ways we tried (and failed) to navigate love.

6) Movies! There are so many Y.A. books being made into block-buster movies right now! ( have to say for the upcoming season I'm looking forward to Divergent (written by Veronica Roth) and The Fault in our Stars (written by John Green).

7) Perspective. Perhaps this is something that only a 30-something (or older) would say as a positive of Y.A. fiction, but I like reading these books with the perspective that I now have. It is interesting to think how much our teen years affect who we are and what we do with our lives. I like reading other people's "coming of age" stories. Everybody has a story, and the more we get to know, the more open minded I believe we become.

8) Cheap Travel. How else can I spend six months in India or a semester in Korea? My travel accounts are non-existent these days so I love reading stories set in new-to-me locations.

9) BFFs! While I love my husband and kiddos something fierce, there is something to be said for remembering all the awesome friends that you used to be inseparable with. Reading these books reminds me of a handful of great girls and guys that I hung out with in my adolescence. I wish I could still have lunch with them every day!

10) Inspiration. Reading makes you a better writer, period. I try to read as much as I write and I'm so full of gratitude for all the writers in the world who put the stories in their heads onto paper. 

** Personal Bonus - I love that I can easily identify people I might have something in common with if I see on their Facebook or Goodreads Page that they are also a Y.A. fan :)

Happy Valentines Day to all you book lovers!

Life Inspires Fiction - Sand Mining in Central Wisconsin

The idea for Totem began percolating in my mind back in January of 2011.  I had a lot of the details worked out with  the legend and fantasy end of the story, but I was missing the major conflict. Obviously no major conflict = no book. Over time, the characters kept coming back into my imagination and prodding me to fight through my writers block.  

Fast forward a year in a half, In the summer of 2012, a large scale sand mine put in a request for a conditional use permit just 6 miles from our house. The town I lived in was in a bit of an up-roar over the proposal. As I researched the mine, the potential health hazards,  the environmental impact and the likely changes that would come to town I became saddened and frustrated. The proposed mine was near a large State Natural Area that had been created on donated land.  If the mine were to be approved, the donor's backyard would be against the sand mine.  

I couldn't imagine how I would feel if the property I purchased was adjacent to the proposed site - an area that was currently zoned solely for agriculture. How I would feel about a mine that ran 24 hours a day? An operation that would require a parade of dump trucks to transport the sand, and floodlights that would illuminate the work-site all night long. It didn't fit with the values of many local residents - people who had chosen to live further from the convenience of the cities for the benefit of a quiet area where nature was just out their back door.


During the uproar, I read whatever I could get my hands on; but from what I researched, it seemed unlikely that the mine would be turned away. Even though there was no official outcome, I took the advice of a teacher who once told us to "Write about a time where things didn't go your way. Change your biggest disappointment." And so it began; in Totem, the five main characters, Ellery, Josh, Nodin, Sasha, and Cole work together to fight a mine that has been proposed in their town of Oshedina. 

At this point in time the particular mine that inspired the conflict in Totem has has been "approved," BUT there is a legal battle waging between the county and a large group of land owners. I have since moved away from that town but I often think of the landowners who are fighting that battle everyday. And for their sake I hope someone like Cole or Nodin, or Ellery joins their fight.

Anyone that is interested in following the latest news on sand mining in Central Wisconsin can "like" the Preserve Waupaca County Group found on their Facebook page. I thank them for their permission to use the above photo in this post.

What about you? Have you ever found inspiration from conflict in your life?

Organizing the Scenes for a First Draft / Summit

While I waited for my last round of readers  to give me their feedback on Totem, I figured it was time to dive back into Summit (the follow-up Novel to Totem). While I was writing the rough draft of Totem, I just jotted down everything that needed to happen before the ending. I had most of the main ideas sketched out, but very few of the details; It made the writing fun and loose and somewhat impulsive. 

Shortly after beginning Summit it became clear that my old approach was not working.   I found myself with about 60 pages of non-sequential scenes typed up and realized that I needed to utilize a different organizational approach with this project.  Tonight, I was reading through those 60 pages wondering how to organize it all. Then I remembered a trick I learned in high school about using index cards to organize a research paper. The idea was to put one fact on each card (along with it's bibliographical information), and then put the cards in order. It worked so well in high school that I returned to the method whenever I had a longer paper due in college.

Obviously there's no bibliographical information to account for here, but there are a lot more than 15 pages to organize.  I pulled my left-over note-cards out of my desk supplies drawer and sat down to work.

Follow up:  Less than 24 hours later and I have over 40 cards (in chronological order! ) to serve as my outline for Summit. (YAY!) I spent a couple of hours writing down as many turning points and scenes that I could think of. Afterward I lined up all the cards in chronological order. WAY easier than writing it a notebook and drawing arrows all over the place. I even color coded the cards. Blue for conflict, Pink for relationship developments, Yellow for important news/turning points, and white for connecting scenes.  Now I can really get going on that draft!