Tag Archives: young adult fiction

being a giver…

26 Apr

Monday night I had the distinct pleasure of being a “Book Giver” for World Book Night.

The idea was simple and powerful. I was given a box of 20 copies of The Hunger Games (yes, I was squealing like a teenage girl!) to give away to random people…reluctant readers, readers who might not necessarily be able to get their hands on a book, or whomever I thought might just need a random act of bookness as part of their Monday night.

First, let me tell you I love this book…OK, I’ll say it…I’m obsessed with this book and all things related to it. So how cool that I found myself  holding copies in my hand that would allow me to share something so exciting with others?!

(my box of books just before distribution...and look at the fun cover!)

What might be even cooler is that there were something like 50 people chosen to do this (with a wide variety of titles…check them all out on the website) all over Cedar Rapids. Think about that…1,000 books were given out on Monday night right here in my hometown. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. Cedar Rapids was, in fact, one of the top twenty-five cities in the world participating in this event!

My dear friend Sara (whom I’ve gone on literary adventures with before) was also a giver (handing out The Book Thief…another of my favs and a must read). We decided to make a stop at Foundation 2, a local emergency shelter for youth between the ages of 11 and 17, who are experiencing a personal or family crisis, which makes it necessary to temporarily live away from home. I’ve known about this organization for quite some time and value the work they do in our community. We thought those kids just might like a new book on a random Monday night.

As soon as we set foot inside the door and mentioned free books the teens swarmed us like tracker jackers (oh but not venomous and out to kill us…bad analogy!) Let’s just say they were eager to get a copy and it was such fun handing the books out. But the best part was they’d take the book from us–very graciously I might add–then plop down on the couch, flip it open and start reading. Right then and there. Magical! And exactly the point.

Next Sara and I stopped to visit our old high school English teacher and surprise her with some books that she could then share with others. She was delighted. As we chatted it struck me that it was a very neat moment to be sharing with someone who helped shape and inspire my love of literature, especially young adult novels (with strong female protagonists I might add.)

As expected the whole thing was an awesome experience and I can’t wait for the official World Book Night to roll around again.

Maybe next year you’ll join me!

Narrator, narrator…where art thou?

15 Jul

Or more appropriately you and I should be asking “who art thou?”

A narrator is a very important element of the book…essential to telling the story of course. As a writer I am communicating to my reader through my story’s narrator. And as I have started off my process, deciding on the narrator, identifying her voice and then sticking to it has been one of the most challenging elements thus far. 

The good thing is I really like my narrator. 

In writing my book, I’ve decided to take a little different approach, I think, than other young adult novels. My story is not being told in first person or through the voice of a young adult. The narrator of “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim” is in fact Evelyn Zerzanek  herself.

This presents a number of challenges in itself. For one, I have never met Evelyn (which makes it interesting that I presume we are on a first name basis!) and don’t really know much more about her than the many years she spent working at the Cedar Rapids Public Library and her amazing dedication to creating a one-of-a-kind collection of children’s book illustrations.

Of course that can’t be that big of a deal, right. I mean writers are constantly dreaming up characters and narrators for their stories whom they’ve never met or talked to. Heck, they often weren’t even real people.

But telling a rather adventurous story—that you hope teens latch on to and love—through the voice of an older, because I don’t dare say elderly, librarian isn’t going to be a walk in the park (or leisurely float down the Cedar River for that matter.) I want anyone that reads my book to be able to relate to my characters (especially my main character Noah). And so my writing will be a balancing act I think of maintaining the distinct and important voice of Evelyn while allowing readers to connect with the players in the story she tells.  

It’s a big undertaking and I am feeling up to it. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go spend some quality time with my friend Evelyn.

A Collection Saved…

1 Jul

So essentially, this story I am writing is about a 12-year-old boy who saves a very important and highly unique collection of children’s literature illustrations from a flood that devastates the city of Cedar Rapids in June of 2008. 

The flood is real. The collection is real (and was spared from the flood.) The boy and the story are not.

It’s been an interesting journey so far (and I am just now starting the actual writing!) working on a young adult fiction book based on real things and events.

And while so much of what I am writing is a fictionalized story, there are important lessons floating around in there.

For one, I’ve come to realize that when it floods people save what means the most to them…pets, photos, a special toy, whatever it might be. For my main character Noah, the collection of children’s book illustrations at the Cedar Rapids Public Library is what he cares about most during the disaster. Perhaps Noah’s story would be different if his house had been flooded…he’d be worried about his personal possessions.

But we see Noah risk his life to save something for the greater good…to preserve a piece of history…to save art. It’s a bold act for a 12-year-old boy. And my hope is that it can send a message…or messages really. That there’s value in history and collections and art. That sometimes we don’t know our own strength. That there’s hope among the destruction. 

You’ll have to give “Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim” a read when it’s ready and let me know if you think I’ve done my part.