A blog about the amazing things teenagers do, about writing for teens, books for teens, and occasional forays into my world and the world of publishing.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

All's Fair in Love War and High School--Janette Rallison

A new and (hopefully) recurring feature on my blog will be a split mom/child review or mom/teen review. (At least until my kids get bored with this and/or I run out of bribes and threats.) Besides my own kids I have some great teen reviewers lined up to help me with this part of my blog.

During my ANWA conference this fall I met a great Young Adult author named Janette Rallison. She became one of my heroes immediately because 1) She has written and sold a lot of books while being a mom. 2) She's really funny and easy to relate to, and her stories are funny, clean and easy to relate to. 3) My daughter adores her books.

I came home from the conference with an armload of Janette's books and my daughter whipped through them in a few weeks. (Luckily she got two more from her aunt for Christmas.)

When my daughter had to do a book review for her Literature class, she chose Janette's ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR, AND HIGH SCHOOL. After reading her review I decided I needed to read the book too, (she was that persuasive), and that it would be a good book to dual review on my blog.

First my daughter's review:

The book “All’s Fair in Love, War, and High School” by Janette Rallison is a hilarious story about a snobby cheerleader named Samantha who bombs the SAT’s. In desperation to get into a decent college she runs for student body president. As if her life wasn’t stressful enough, her annoying ex-boyfriend makes a bet with her that she can’t go three weeks without insulting someone.

I recommend this book to any girl between the ages of 12 to 16. I think this is the perfect age group because it is a romantic comedy. I also recommend any Janette Rallison books to girls between those ages who don’t enjoy reading. Although I love to read, I have a friend who doesn’t. I recommended this and a few other Janette Rallison books to her and now she just can’t stop.

I absolutely loved this book. I love the sense of humor, the story line, and the characters. This was such a fun book to read.

I wish there was a sequel. After I had finished I was so sad because I felt like the characters were my friends. This is a great book to read for pleasure.

Isn't my daughter brilliant? I love that she recommends books to her friends, I especially love that she is helping a friend get into reading (job security for me).

Now the mom review:

I agree with my daughter, this is a fun book. It's funny and the characters are definitely easy to like and relate to. I remember Janette Rallison talking about this book at my ANWA conference. She said it was hard to make a snobby blond cheerleader likable, but she did a great job. I love that the main character, Samantha, learned her lesson about being critical and judgmental of the kids around her.

This book is squeaky clean. I'm so thrilled to say that. There is no sex, violence, or bad language at all. In fact, Rallison has has fun way of keeping the language clean and still real. One of my favorite lines from the book comes when Samantha's mom makes Samantha and her boyfriend take the cat to the vet on their way to a date.

While he was waiting for the light to turn green Brad glanced over at me. "The frisky cat is on your head!"

Actually, I'm not sure if "frisky" was the adjective he used, but the word definitely began with an "f". (Rallison, 16)

That line made me laugh out loud, actually a lot of lines and situations in this book made me laugh out loud.

Questions to discuss with your kids after reading this book:

What did Samantha learn from her bet with Logan?

What did she learn about honesty during the election?

And since this is such a funny book, What do you think was the funniest part of the story?

Reading books with your kids doesn't always have to bring out a big serious discussion. Sometimes it can be just for the joy of sharing a story you both enjoy.

This is a fun book with a good message about judging others and working through your problems. I loved reading it with my daughter. I loved that this was a book I could let her read without being afraid of of the content.

ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE, WAR AND HIGH SCHOOL, is a fun, clean, romantic comedy. It is a book that teaches a lesson, but mostly it's just for fun. I would recommend this book for any girl ages 11 and up. (I'm definitely "up" from 11 and I enjoyed it.)

Now, I want you to think about your favorite, funny book that you read as a kid. Now go share it with your kids. If you're a teen, share your favorite funny book with your parents, or a friend. (And share it with me while you are at it, I'm always looking for something fun to read.)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blog Fail

Are you taking blogging too seriously, or not seriously enough?

Yesterday, I took my son and a some of his friends to an indoor skate park. They videotaped a bunch of their tricks and then watched them in the car on the way home. When someone messed up a trick, one kid kept saying,

"Ooooh, BLOGFAIL!"

I know there is a site on the internet called Fail Blog, full of people doing stupid things, but whenever he said it, I couldn't help but feeling he was talking to me.

Just two weeks ago I posted my writing resolutions in black and white, sent out to the internet, and now floating around in cyberspace forever. One of those resolutions was to blog at least twice a week. Guess what? My last post was on January 7th, and it is now the 18th. Hmmmm, BLOGFAIL???

I have a pile of excuses:

Buried in revisions for my upcoming novel, busy kids, recovering from the holidays, scouts, and oh yeah, I am now in charge of all the 18 month to 11-year-old kids at church. (More than 80 kids!!!) I love each of my many hats, (Except for the laundry-hat, and the police-the-fighting-kids hat and the help-with-homework-I-don't-remember-how-to-do hat....okay you get the idea,) but they have tendency to take up all of my time.

I could use any of those things as an excuses for the Blogger Hat to go by the wayside, (right?) but I think the biggest reason I'm not blogging is something deeper:


Yep, fear.

I have, (at last count) eight unfinished blog posts--posts I started to write and then for whatever reason decided I couldn't post them. The reasons vary--I need more information. Can I really say this about this book? Is this going to sound dumb?

Coming from a background in journalism, both print and broadcast I was TRAINED to check all my facts and make everything perfect. But blogging is different. While I'm chastising myself for not making blogging a priority and not taking it seriously, maybe the problem is I'm taking it too seriously.

No, I am not advocating putting up false information up on a blog. (There's enough of that on the internet as it is.) What I'm saying is that (especially for a writer), blogging should be fun. It should be a piece of you. It's your opinion, it's your passion, it's your life to be shared. It should be "Wow this book is so great that I can't wait to tell you about it!" Or "You wouldn't believe what kids are doing to make their world a better place!" Or it could just be, "Pursuing your dreams is hard, but you can do it."

It can even be "Sometimes life is so frustrating I just want to cry." Or "Sometimes life is so beautiful I just want to cry." Or as simple as, "You wouldn't believe what happened to me today."

Two blogs I visited recently helped me come to this conclusion: Lynne Kelly Hoenig, (Making Stuff Up and Writing it Down) and her hilariously, ironic fish story blog: "Lessons In Character Motivation From A Passive-Aggressive Fish" and Carrie Dair's "Destruction 101," about the destruction and mayhem stories we all have from childhood, (Come on, I Dair You). Love their blog titles BTW.

Neither of these posts were life-changing (um, unless you're Beanie the fish), neither took a lot of research, neither were attempts by the writer to sell something, or establish a platform. They were fun, slice of life, moments that we can all relate to and laugh about.

Even one of my hero-writers, Sarah Dessen writes slice-of-life stuff on her Writergrl Live Journal--playing with her daughter, pop culture, weather--things
that are important to her and relate-able to the rest of us. (Oh, and totally check out the first chapter for her new book WHAT HAPPENED TO GOODBYE when you visit her blog. Can't wait to read it!)

My (as usual) long-winded post boils down to this one point, a formula I will try to follow in my blogging from now on:

Write what you love, and who you are, and post without fear--Take it seriously, but don't take it too seriously.
I'll still write about books I love, and kids who impress me, and the ups and downs of being a new author and a mom, but I will do it with less fear of the dreaded BLOGFAIL (thanks Bryce).

And after just one (or maybe two) proofreads I'm posting this one, I promise.

Now you tell me. What do you think a blog supposed to be?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Teens Doing Great Things: An Invitation to the Dance

In the wake of all the news about bullying and cyberbullying and in general all the mean things that kids do to each other I love to hear stories about kids being NICE to each other. I was so happy to read a story on the ANWA Friends and Founders Blog (a blog for the American Night Writers Association) about a teen aged girl who forgot herself and did something truly nice for a boy who has special needs.

With the Tanya Parker Mills' permission I'm re-posting the story that was originally posted Friday, December 10, 2010.

*This post was written for a writer's group that is predominantly members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints.) Clarifications of generally LDS (Mormon) terms were added in green by me.*

Selfless Social Giving

By Tanya Parker Mills

During this season of giving, I was reminded last week of just how wonderful and generous the youth are in our area, whether members of the (Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints) Church or not. I'm writing of a different kind of giving here--not the Christmas presents and food box variety--but the gift of social inclusion to those generally deemed "different."

When my son was first diagnosed with Asperger's in first grade, I checked off several things he would likely never do...play team sports, go to dances, date girls. A mission, college, and eventual marriage were even questionable. I thought he'd enjoy Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and enjoy getting his Eagle, but no, unlike many Aspies, the outdoors held no appeal for him.

As he grew up in our old ward in California, the youth went through the motions of trying to include him, but many Sundays he came home upset because there were always those who laughed at him and tormented him in some way. I'm so glad we moved, if only for his sake, for it proved to him (and me) that youth in the Church could be as loving and inclusive as Christ wants us to be.

So, what happened last week? I got a text message from one of my former Mia Maids, now a Laurel * and a senior in high school. She's not only a member of the Seminary Council **, but she's quite popular at school (and she's one of the girls my son, a Junior, has a crush on). Here's what she texted:

Lily: Would it be okay to take Jason to winter ball on the 18th? Do you know if he wants to go? I know it's the night of the ward *** Christmas party.

Me: I know he'd love to go with you. I'm just not sure he's comfortable about dancing. Let me get back to you, okay?

Lily: Yeah those were my thoughts too. I was thinking maybe we could do the dance for a while and dance with the group and get pics and then peace [sic] out. We'd be at the dance for maybe an hour.

Me: Sounds great. Go ahead and ask him.

Lily: Great! thanks :)

Then on Friday, when Jason went to eat lunch at the Seminary building at school (yes, we are unusually lucky to have **** release time Seminary up here in the Tri-Cities), he saw this huge banner Lily had put up asking him very publicly to the girls ask guys Winter Ball. Of course, he came home ple ased as punch. And on Sunday in front of his whole Sunday School class, he nervously presented her with a long-stemmed red rose and his reply, "Of course I'll go with you, Lily. I can think of nothing I'd rather do."

My only remaining concern was how he would handle the traditional dinner before the dance. My son eats only grilled cheese sandwiches (and only the way I make them), a banana here and there, one particular kind of cinnamon cookie, and Dreyer's Grand Vanilla Ice Cream, and he only drinks water.

As it turns out, I needn't have worried. Lily had already made plans to double with another girl in our ward (who has a brother with more severe Asperger's), and they were planning on grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for dinner. The other girl's mother said I was welcome to come and prepare the sandwiches just the way Jason likes.
I'm not sure if Lily realizes the extent of the gift she is giving my son. Even though she's half a foot taller than him, this beautiful, talented, vivacious girl is showing everyone at school that Jason is worth spending a special evening with. My son is actually pretty popular on campus in terms of friendship. Perhaps this will open the way for him to actually try asking someone to Homecoming and Prom next year--steps I never thought I'd see.

*Mia Maids, (age 14-16) and Laurels (age 16-18) are the names Young Women's classes in the LDS church.

**Seminary is a religion class that LDS high school-aged kids attend, Seminary Council is like Student Council in high school.

***Seminary is usually taught in the wee hours of the morning before school starts. Some school districts allow "release time" seminary, where the students leave campus for one period a day for religious instruction.

Thank you so much for letting me share this story Tanya. And than you to girls like Lily who go above and beyond to do great things!

Tanya Parker Mills is the author of The Reckoning, 2010 Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Award Winner for Mainstream/Literary Fiction, 2009 Indie Book Award Winner for Multicultural Fiction, and 2008 Whitney Finalist in two categories. You can read more about her and her writing on her blog "Seized by Words" and her website tanyaparkermills. She is a regular contributor to the ANWA Founder’s and Friends blog.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Writing Resolutions

It's been more than a week since I posted, but I needed some break time, and reading time, and time to think about my revisions, and chocolate, (lots and lots of chocolate).

May I be among the...okay probably last, to say:

Happy New Year Everyone!!!
*Cue confetti and noise makers*

For me the beginning of the year always brings with it two things to:
1. January is no sugar month for me. This is my yearly ritual for cleaning out the river of glucose that once was my blood. (The cravings are pretty bad right now, so forgive me if words like "chocolate" and "cheesecake" pop up randomly in this post.)

And 2. (I'm being really original here) Resolution time!!! (try to contain your excitement.)

Yes, I know, resolutions are made to be broken. I've even had years where I resolved NOT to make a single resolution, (and then congratulated myself on the depth of my willpower).

But this year as I look back at 2010 for the crazy, wonderful year it was, and all the good news it brought me, especially for my writing career, I can't help being hopeful about what 2011 will bring.

2010 was a blessed and lucky year, but I'm a firm believer that you aren't blessed or lucky without a lot of hard work. I grew up on a farm and the virtues of hard work (and incidentally the values of higher education) were pounded into me at an early age. However, you can work hard all you want, but if you're not working towards a goal, you're working for nothing. (Unless it's to buy some really good cheesecake.)

Okay, sorry, I feel like I'm writing in circles. (And the chocolate stash in the back of the cupboard is calling me.) I will be strong and I will get to the point. In order to achieve something, you must first start with a goal, and unless you write that goal down, it is only a wish. (I read that straight from the instructions in my new Franklin/Covey planner so I know it's true.)

So, with far more ado than I needed (blame it on sugar withdrawals) I present, here, written down for the world to see...

Drum roll please (or tootsie roll, seriously a tootsie roll would be great):

My WRITING Resolutions for 2011
(I specified writing resolutions--so I'm not including the no sugar, get back in shape, keep the house clean stuff.)

  1. Finish my current revisions EARLY and do everything my editor wants me to do to get TIGERSEYE ready to be published.
  2. Complete two full manuscripts.
  3. Fully revise one of my drawer novels.
  4. Blog consistently--at least two posts a week.
  5. Work on a writing project that I'm absolutely passionate about every day. (Even if it's only for five minutes).
Yep that's it, five concrete goals and one "airy-fairy" one. But that last one might be the most important. As writing morphs from a hobby/dream to a job/career, (albeit a dream job), I sometimes have to remind myself that I write because I love it and that I should enjoy and appreciate every single minute that I get to write.

I hope 2011 brings you all sorts of wonderful things.

What are your writing resolutions?

If one of them is to snag a fabulous agent and/or improve your hook and first chapter check out this Writer's Digest webinar with my agent Sara Megibow at Writer's Digest.

If you aren't a writer, what steps are you going to take in 2011 to make your dreams come true?