Teen Sitcoms, Do They Inspire You?

April 5, 2010

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Okay, so like most people I have my DVR set to record my favorite shows, and I’m guilty of being a huge fan of teen dramas. Shows like Friday Night Lights, Secret Life of the American Teenager, and Glee are really hot right now and sometimes push the limits of teen culture. A lot teenage driven drama has gotten more real, showing just how edgy stories involving young adults can be.

Just like television shows, young adult novels have gotten edgy and are drawing more and more adult fans, like me. I watch these shows and find myself hooked in, and like most people, compare them to my own angsty teen years. Sometimes when I’m watching these shows I find the little wheels in my brain turning with inspiration for my own writing. I will confess after watching Veronica Mars I created an out-casted, snarky character and pretty much wrote the entire manuscript in about a month, which is unheard of for me.

So my question to you is, what teen shows inspire your young adult writing?


Interview with Hannah Moskowitz

April 2, 2010

Yesterday was our 5-Minute Book Club and we featured Break by Hannah Moskowitz.  To follow it up, Hannah has given us a great interview.  She was so amazing and super-fast replying.  Thanks, Hannah!!

We all loved your book and were entranced by the voice.  How did you nail the voice?

Thank you so much! I wish I had a better answer for this, but it wasn’t a conscious thing. The first few pages that you see of BREAK are basically the same first pages form the very first draft. Those I just wrote, letting them happen, and I tried to get the rest of the book to match that same vibe. I love voice in novels, but I never have any good advice on how to write it. It’s just having fun with it, I think.
Now that BREAK has been out a while, do you feel that it has changed you and how?

It’s definitely connected me to some fantastic people. And it’s been AMAZING watching the buzz for BREAK grow, absolutely amazing. I keep waiting for the crash, or for BREAK to slowly fade into nothingness, but its popularity has actually been building everyday, which is…astounding to watch. It’s amazing what word of mouth can do, and I’m so incredibly grateful for what my readers have managed to do for this book. I sound like such a goddamn suck-up right now, but I’m so serious.
We see that you have INVINCIBLE SUMMER coming out next year.  Can you share some of it?

Heehee, I have excerpts on my blog at http://hannahmosk.blogspot.com you can absolutely check out. I’m so exciting for INVINCIBLE SUMMER. It’s going to be awesome.
Do you think YA is getting too edgy?  Are there any taboo subjects?  Should it be toned down?

Oh, hell no, it can’t get too edgy for me. But I think it’s important that we keep building this huge amount of breadth we have going for us in YA. We don’t want to be edgy for the sake of being edgy, you know? There’s room for everything, and there should be. It’s one of the best things YA has going for it as a classification. We hold so many different genres.
I can’t think of any taboo subjects.
Have you ever tried writing from female perspective and if so, how did it go?

I’ve started a few things from female POVs, and they never went well. I have a novel finished that I co-wrote with a friend, in which he wrote the POV of a boy, and I wrote a girl. That was much easier than writing a whole book from a female’s POV. So with that under my belt, I wrote another novel from 4 POVs, two of which are female.
What else do you have in the works?

I have a few YA manuscripts sitting around, wonder what’s going to happen with them, and an MG in the works right now. I have an adult book that’s out with editors right now. We’ll see how everything happens!
What’s it like to be a published, teenage writer in college?

Busy. Nobody knows about the writing thing at college, so there I’m just hannah, which is honestly a nice break. But it is frustrating when I have edits due the same Monday as a big paper, and I just want someone at school to cut me a break. I end up getting all my shit done, but sometimes it’s a scramble. I don’t like college much–I’m never shy about saying it–so a lot of times I just wish I were old enough to be out of here.
Now we have to get personal, at least I want to satisfy my own curiosity.  We’ll blame Twitter ;).  I think it’s awesome you are making an inter-faith relationship work.  Your shiksa.  I still smile every time I think of him being a shiksa.  I guess I should explain for our readers.  A shiksa is a female non-Jew.  A male non-Jew is a shaygetz.  Does he mind that you refer to him in this way?  And how did Shiksa come about for him?

I love this question so much. Yeah, I call him shiksa all the time, both to his face and on the internet. On twitter, it just made sense–its easier than everyone going “Who’s Chris?” every time I mention him–and I think it’s cute and funny. I call him shiksa instead of shaygetz for a few reasons. It’s a more familiar term; he knew it before I started calling him that, and gentiles in general have an easier time recognizing it. Also, Chris refers to me as his boyfriend sometimes, so it’s really only fair that he gets to be the shiksa. We just like to confuse people.


Ice cream: French Vanilla

Color: Indigo

Jewish holiday: Rosh Hashanah

Final question, What do you drive?

Eee, I did drive a 2005 Cooper Mini, but I totaled it a few weeks ago. Now I have a 2009 Honda Fit, and I love it to death.

Thanks so very much for doing this. We appreciate it lots and lots.

Comments, questions, thoughts, oh lovely readers??  Also, yesterday we announced the chance to win Break would be announced in the future and it will, as soon as our super sekrit project is finished 😉


Contest Winner

April 2, 2010

Thanks to all of you who participated in our contest. Even though we were a little shy of fifty comments, there will still be a $50.00 donation from OPWFT going to the Muscular Dystophy Association. It was wonderful to read about your heroes, and I know we’re all thankful you have those wonderful people in your life.

 Congratulations to Philologia who was selected out of a basket of names by a merry band of my students!! Once again, thanks to all of you who participated and made a difference. We all really appreciate it! 🙂


5-Minute Book Club: BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz

April 1, 2010

It’s the first Thursday of the month and time for our Book of the month: Break by Hannah Moskowitz.

From the back of the book:

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body.  Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before.  Jonah wants to be stronger–needs to be stronger–because everything around him is falling apart.  Breaking, and then healing, is the only way he can cope with the stresses of home, girls, and the world on his shoulders. When Jonah’s self-destructive spiral accelerates and he hits rock bottom, will he find true strength or surrender to his breaking point?

Here’s what we thought about Break, in alphabetical order 😉


Voice.  The voice in Break alone is worth keeping it on your bookshelf.  Then there are the characters.  From Jonah to Jesse to Naomi to Charlotte, they’re all completely empathetic, despite some pretty huge flaws.  There’s plenty of funny, too, including my favorite “mental health outlaw” line that I’m sure Hannah is sick of hearing.  Finally, this book manages to be spare yet full of amazing descriptions at the same time.  Don’t ask me how—just read it.


This book gets inside the mind of a teen boy, and it’s not just girls, sports, and cars in there.  Jonah is one of the most 3D YA characters I’ve ever read.  The reader understands his motivation even when he’s doing things he shouldn’t. His love for his brothers is heartbreaking and heartwarming.  Break is a swirl of emotions right up to the last page.


Um, wow.  That about sums it up for me. I grabbed this book as soon as it hit the shelves, curled up on a chair and started reading.  I couldn’t put it down.  Hannah completely blew me away with her writing. FPP was phenomenal, male POV was fantastic and the other characters were so real and flawed. I never saw where it was going and was surprised.  That’s a major plus for me.  And the cover screams buy me!


It came out less than a year ago but Break is probably the YA title I mention most on Absolute Write. Why? Three little words: First Person Present. Hannah Moskowitz nails it. Her prose is crisp and pulls you along like a riptide. FPP is hard to pull off without it sounding somehow affected; Moskowitz does it so well that Break is my go-to book when questions about that particular narrative mode pop up on AW(which they do—with seemingly alarming regularity).

I also love her descriptions and dialogue. I just skimmed the first chapter as a refresher and was blown away all over again. “Her sneakers make bubble gum smacks against the pavement on her way to me.” How can you not fall for a line like that?


What can I say about the mastery that is Break? So many things stick out as amazing. First is the fact Hannah was sixteen when she wrote it, and we’re not talking about any fluffy story here. This storyline has some heavy handed, deep shit to it(and Hannah would totally approve of me saying that!). Second, it is narrated by a guy. I have a heart for male narrators since two of my books have male POV. It’s easy to fall in love with Jonah. One minute you crush on him, and the next you want to draw him into your arms to comfort him–to ease some of the madness surrounding him. Yes, it’s hard not to want to mother him when he’s being so strong for his sick brother, Jesse, and picking up the pieces of his fractured family. He’s trying to be so much for so many. This personal neglect leads him to break down. Of course, this comes after many attempts of breaking bones since broken bones heal stronger. It’s amazing the metaphorical world that Hannah brings into this story. It’s also an interesting look into an alternative to cutting. Jonah is hurting himself to cope with the pain much like teens who cut themselves do. The characters in this book were phenomenal, and they stayed with you long after you put the book down. Who can forget bff, Naomi, as she’s a misguided partner in crime to Jonah’s mayhem? And even though we pity Jesse for the unbearable allergies he faces, it’s hard to feel for him more than Jonah. As for the narration, I think it is spot on of a teenage male, and anyone who picked the book up without noticing the author would swear it was a guy.


With a rhythm that keeps you reading and a style that leaves no room for bullshit, Break is a book you won’t want to put down. Jonah’s voice is honest and easy to relate to. Jesse, food allergies and all, is the little brother you wish you had. Hannah does a great job conveying emotion and putting reason behind Jonah’s mission.


Let’s lay it out on the line. I have the attention span of a small mammal and/or goldfish. It doesn’t take much to make me put a book down, and pick it up again, and put it down again…wait, is that a shiny thing? Ooh, look over THERE! Anyway, I picked up Break and did not put it down. I read it in two hours and did not notice the passage of time. I have tried for awhile to isolate the reason for this intense engrossment. I think part of it is the idea of the story itself– boy wants to break all his bones? I had to read it, and I was pleased to discover that the subject of self-injury was handled with care and subtlety. Jonah has a unique psychology– not what I expected of someone who is injuring himself– but his portrayal nonetheless feels realistic. Speaking of Jonah: how often do you find a character who is deeply flawed but completely likable? His intense devotion to his brothers made me ache for him every time something went wrong. I missed him when I finished. I suddenly wanted to write from a male POV. I felt the need to recommend it to my mother. She loved it. All signs of a good read. Many thumbs up.

What did you think about Break?  Leave us a comment.  Haven’t read it?  Stay tuned for a special interview and the chance to win Break or better yet, run to your bookstore and buy it, you know you want to.  Next month our book choice is The Shifter by Janice Hardy.  Go buy it, read it and see if you agree with what we have to say.  See you the first Thursday of next month!!


April Fools Day ARMOR.

April 1, 2010

Hi. I’m Veronica, and April Fools Day makes me edgy. Not “edgy” like some of you like your YA…”edgy” like if you sneak up behind me I will scream bloody murder and wield my karate chopping hands of DOOM edgy. You can’t trick me. I’m too suspicious.

I am here to provide you with several methods of protecting yourself against the trickery of those jerkwad– er, I mean, lovely, mischievous people who will spend all day trying to get you to check for a stain on your shirt and then run their finger up your nose. I call this list: WAYS TO WARD OFF THE FOOLS DAY FOOLS. I hope you read these before it’s too late and you look like this:

(Click for link to original)

(Poor fellow.)

1. Constantly look over your shoulder to see if someone is behind you. In fact, if you could turn in circles every few seconds and then make this sound: “WAH PAHHHH!” that would also be helpful for you. Because nobody messes with a circle-turning guy who shouts “WAH PAHHHH!” Nobody.

2. Practice your “Pshhhhh. I don’t believe you.” face in the mirror. Everyone needs a good “pshhhh. I don’t believe you” face. Here’s mine:

The trick is to make it skeptical but not disdainful, so that if you discover that the person you’re talking to is actually being genuine, it transitions easily into a frowning-yet-understanding-nod very quickly, like so:

But if you discover that the person you’re talking to is really a butthead trying to shove a rubber snake down your pants, YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG. The FACE says so.

3. Stay in your room, armed with a can of silly string. That way, if someone tries to jump out at you, you can spray them in the face with the string and then cackle to yourself for a few seconds as they recover from the surprise. Be careful that the person you’re spraying isn’t your boss, coming by to deliver some kind of TPS report (…clearly, I don’t work in an office) because you could get yourself into an awful lot of trouble. The good thing is, it’s April Fools Day. You have an excuse. And everyone knows it’s not cool to be a lame-o on AFD.

4. Be suspicious of all big/exciting “news”. Chances are…IT’S A LIE. I mean, this really goes without saying. If someone tells you that aliens have landed on April 1st, wait until April 2nd to freak the hell out.

Or, you know. If someone tells you…that on April 15th, OPWFT will be MOVING to a new blog and taking on a new name. With the same people (plus a few *cough* stellar newbies) and the same awesome.

No, seriously.

Yeah, I know, but this news is really–


So there you have it. My foolproof tips for kicking buns and taking names on AFD instead of walking around with a sign on your back like a chump. LIKE A CHUMP.


“My Hero” Make a Difference Contest

March 26, 2010

My ninth grade students are currently reading Night by Holocaust survivor, Eli Wiesel. While previewing the novel, we watched clips from Freedom Writers on the Holocaust and in particular Anne Frank. One quote by Miep Gies stuck out to me. It means something for us as writers, as people, as readers, etc. Here’s the quote:

“But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room. To me, you are the heroes.”

The idea that even teens can make a difference and be heroes really struck home to me since I’m a teacher, and I write for teens as well. It brought me full circle back to thinking of my personal hero and teenager, Mattie Stepanek and what his message of hope, peace, and making a difference has meant to me and the world.

Speaking of how teens can make a difference, I was so impressed by sixteen year old author Riley Carney who three years ago when she was thirteen(yes, I did say thirteen!), created a non-profit organization called Breaking the Chain. Their mission was to eradicate illiteracy for children not just in America, but all over the world.  Because of Riley’s efforts,  three schools have been built in Africa.  Not only that, but she helped created a literacy center in a woman’s shelter in Colorado and bought books for reading programs in the US.

So, here’s where the contest comes in. We’re giving away a copy of Mattie Stepanek’s NY Times best selling book of poetry, Heartsongs . To win all you have to do is give us the name of your hero. It can be a famous person, or it can be anyone big or small who has touched your life. Then we’ll pick a winner from the comments.

But here’s where you get to pay it forward. For each comment we receive, we will donate $1.00 to the Muscular Dystrophy Association in memory of Mattie and all those who have lost their battle with Muscular Dystrophy. Please RT this contest and help us get a lot of comments to give a big donation.

Winners will be drawn Wednesday, March 31st


Lazy Thursday: We Don’t Write the Posts, You Do

March 25, 2010

It’s Thursday. You know what that means? We’re too lazy to blog.

Don't bother me...I'm lounging.

But hey, check out these cool posts happening at an interwebz near you.

The last in YA-writer-on-sub Corrine Jackson’s How Writers Do it Series. Read about how nine writers (some of them OPWFTers) pull stories out of their butts plan their stories. AND WIN BOOKS!

Check out twitter-friendly agent Kathleen Ortiz’s blog, for chances to win A FREE 8 MINUTE SKYPE SESSION with her and her partner in crime agent friend, Suzie Townsend. (If you win, maybe they’ll even tell you what they have against multiples of five. )

Oh, and AW member and YA writer Marilyn Almodovar actually thought one of our own was cool enough to interview (yes, I’m totally writing this about myself.  Am feeling weird now, in a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest kinda way.)

Happy Thursday, and check back in tomorrow for your regularly scheduled bloggy goodness.

Sparkle Out.