Tag Archives: YA

A meeting of the library minds

February 11th 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about an email I had sent to my public library administration in December expressing some frustrations over their poor YA collection development. (They didn’t have Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds which I was dying to read, or any Maureen Johnson novel published past 2006, not to mention they were missing several Printz books…) But then I didn’t hear anything back. Nothing. Radio silence. It wasn’t until after I participated in a phone-in town hall meeting with my state senator, and brought up the issues I had with our library, that I got a response. From my state senator. Still, not the library. Well, long story short, my state senator put me in touch with the new library board president and he invited me to meet with him and two other board members to discuss the library and ideas on improving, not just the YA collection, but teen outreach and customer service.

That meeting happened last night at the new library building in town. I was so excited to attend. You’d think I was going on a wine tour in Napa Valley. But, as a YA librarian, being given a chance to talk about the insufficient YA collection and programming is a tremendous opportunity. And the board did not disappoint. They listened to my ideas with open ears. They deferred to my experience and knowledge. The board president apologized to me for not receiving a reply to my 1.5 page email. He was interested in my ideas on how to get teens into the library and he asked me for a specific list of YA titles the library should order for the collection. At one point, I was referred to as a consultant which practically made my head explode. These trustees seem to be very involved and they value community input.

I left the meeting feeling very hopeful about the future of the library and excited about the changes I believe are coming. Just this morning, I sent another email with a recommended list of YA titles and teen programming ideas and I have faith progress will be made. Perhaps, in baby steps, but still progress. Because in Pennsylvania (unlike New Jersey), library funding does not come from taxes unless a special referendum is passed. But county residents won’t pass a referendum for the library unless the library can show how they are an integral part of the community. And unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do that.

I am incredibly grateful that my state senator facilitated this meeting and I’m grateful that the board of trustees were receptive to my ideas. And hopefully some wicked YA books will be gracing the shelves of our public library very soon.

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The accidental sleuth

November 12th 2013

Lately, I’ve been on a hunt for YA historical mysteries and coming up….well, sort of empty-handed. After reading The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni, a suspenseful YA historical mystery about a girl uncovering the reason her mother’s grave is encased in a cage, I’ve been wanting more books like it, but I’m struggling. I’m sort of fussy, I guess. The reason I loved The Caged Graves so much was because it mixed my favorite elements of a good mystery — an unusual premise (caged graves?!), a headstrong heroine, third-person POV, forensic science, and an accidental sleuth.

There is something about a protagonist stumbling upon a mystery, a character completely unprepared for what’s ahead of him/her, that I find to be so compelling. I love mysteries, but I’ve never enjoyed the detective story. I don’t have a penchant for a character whose job is to solve crimes for a living. I am much more interested in the protagonist (usually women because they are often underestimated, especially in historical contexts) who tries to puzzle out the mystery because of her proximity to the crime or because a resolution to the crime is important to her own well-being.

Some of the books I’ve read recently are: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee — a YA historical mystery set in 1850s London with a strong female protagonist and a devilishly handsome romantic lead; The Ruby in the Smoke by Philip Pullman — a YA historical mystery set in Victorian London featuring multiple POVs and truly wicked villains; and A Place of Confinement by Anna Dean — an adult historical mystery set in 1807 England with a spinster-in-the-making protagonist whose role as companion to her crabby aunt allows her to investigate a woman’s disappearance. Aside from A Spy in the House, these books have accidental sleuths — women who get thrown into a mystery and who must use their smarts to solve a mystery for their own benefit whether it’s to save their own skin or the life of someone they love.

The book I am editing now for my publisher is a mystery and, depending on your opinion of the 1990s, could be considered historical. It’s also, at its core, a romance. I also have two WIPs in the queue that are mysteries. One is set in the 1950s and the other is set in present-day — both with historical elements and all with accidental sleuths.

So, can anyone recommend some excellent historical mysteries (preferably YA) with accidental sleuths and a giant wedge of romance?

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1979

August 30th 2013

I was born in 1979, which when you put it that way, sounds about as long ago as 1879 — that’s how disconnected I sometimes feel from today’s youth. Especially when I was watching MTV’s Video Music Awards last Sunday night. Admittedly, I only tuned in so I could savor some nostalgia via NSYNC. I kid you not, I was squealing like a 10-year-old when I heard Bye, Bye, Bye.

While I listen to Pop music plenty on Radio Disney (oh yes cuz I got kids y’all) and Z100, I still had no idea who some of these music stars were (I did know Selena Gomez — thanks Radio Disney!). The woman interviewing Austin Mahone looked old enough to be his mother.

But before that, I felt my youth ebb away like the rolling tide when Miley Cyrus jumped on stage. I found myself cringing and thinking of her mother. Not to mention, I had to look up the word, twerking. As much as I love the song, Blurred Lines, I won’t be able to listen to that song without thinking of Ms. Cyrus backing that ass up to 36-year-old, Robin Thicke. Miley got a lot of smack for that performance. She’s 20 and where else, but the VMAs, can you push the limits like that? Still, if you read the transcript between my friend and I over Facebook chat, you’d think we sounded a bunch of old biddies. Cuz we did.

In the 1990s when I was a teenager, watching the VMAs was a big event. I waited all summer to see my favorite bands (Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Tori Amos and yes…Britney) get on that MTV stage. I got chills watching Billy Corgan perform Tonight, Tonight in 1996. The black suit, the orchestra, his bald head — it was all so magical. I’m watching it now on YouTube and I still get goosebumps. It’s one of the greatest performances of my youth.

Sometimes I worry this disconnect I feel with today’s teens will affect my work. After all, I write YA and I want my work to make authentic connections with teens. But can I if I wrinkle my nose at the TV like my mother?

But then I think about it some more. I’m feeling a disconnect with today’s pop culture, not today’s teens. After all, I still get excited watching my favorite bands perform. My heart beats wildly. I sing loud. I may not get Miley, but I do remember what it feels like to get excited over new music and to intertwine my identity with that of my favorite singers. (I did stitch ‘Green Day’ with green embroidery thread into the front pocket of my Jansport.)

As a writer, the important thing for me to do is tap into my nostalgia and remember my adolescence as a way to bridge the gap between 1979 and….wait hold up, today’s 13-year-olds were born in 2000? Damn.

No, wait. I got this. *turns up the volume on Tori Amos*

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