Tag Archives: young adult novel

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!

Home is where my book is…

21 Jul

Last week I stopped in at a lunchtime program at the Cedar Rapids Public Library (CRPL) about becoming a published author. It was wonderful and engaging and I especially enjoyed meeting other local writers. 

At one point during the hour I mentioned that I was working on a young adult novel about a 12-year-old boy who saves an art collection from the flood…the art collection owned by the Cedar Rapids Public Library, in fact. Two CRPL children’s librarians’ eyes lit up in the back of the room. “You’re going to tell us when it’s done, right?” they both asked enthusiastically. 


Ever since I’ve announced that I’ll be writing Evelyn’s Drawings Can’t Swim I’ve been getting nothing but excited feedback. It is truly amazing to have the support of all your family and friends as you embark on an incredible journey like this. And honestly all the people I have talked to about the book—that I am not related to or friends with on Facebook—are so far intrigued by the idea.  (Whether they want to read it is another story I guess.) 

I am proud to be from Cedar Rapids. And I am proud and honored that I get to write a story about my new friend Noah from Cedar Rapids, too. There is a wonderful sense of community here and I am just so touched by the fact that my story has been taken in and supported by that community. I can’t wait until the book is finished and I can go back to the CRPL and do a reading, or visit my son’s school, or meet with local book groups…and show my fellow Cedar Rapidians that we have great stories to tell.

Now part of you can’t help but wonder if anyone else out there…outside the city limits of Cedar Rapids, that is…will care. I have to think so, or believe so. There are important messages in my story for tweens and teens (and anyone else who wants to pick it up) and a pretty excellent adventure.

So I help draw a little attention to Cedar Rapids in the meantime. I’m just doing my part for my hometown.

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.

Call me crazy…but I’m going to write a young adult novel!

9 May

OK so I have been saying I wanted to write books for kids for quite some time (before I had my own kids even.) So I decided 2010 was going to be the year I should stop talking about it and actually start writing.

And so I’ve started writing this book. But this isn’t my first writing gig, I’ll have you know. I have, in fact, been a writer for a long time. I loved writing stories as a kid, was editor of my high school newspaper (totally cool, right?!) and got serious about it in college, when I majored in Magazine Journalism and English/Writing at Drake University. I’ve spent the last eight years writing for various publications (as a freelance journalist) on a wide variety of topics—everything from profiles of local folks making good in the community (check out page 10 and 11) to tips on installing a car seat properly (trust me, it’s much harder that it looks!)

But this is my first attempt at writing not only a novel, but a novel that will entertain kids…more specifically tweens and teens. Yikes! You, like me, may be wondering why I didn’t start out with something a little less challenging. Sure, there are moments when I think I might be crazy. But really when it comes to starting the quest of becoming a published author, I don’t think there is a non-challenging approach. Tweens and teens excluded, writing a book can be a daunting project (I am certainly not 100 percent sure of my abilities 100 percent of the time.) But I whole-heartedly believe it wouldn’t be worth doing if it wasn’t going to challenge me, push my abilities, enhance my skills and keep me learning in an ever-changing world. Oh, and tell a truly unique and special story that kids everywhere can’t wait to pick up.

So I write. And you can join me here (at least weekly) where I’ll let you in on the process of bringing my novel idea to life.