Thursday, September 27, 2012


It’s Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week (BBW) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. Held during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States. (American Librarian Association)

My take on Banned Books:

I have a thirteen-year old daughter who reads just as much if not more than I do. We share books, but there are certain YA books that she will definitely wait to read. Is it because I want them banned? NO. It’s because she’s not ready to handle some of the older YA content. But one day she will be. And I want her to have accessibility to these books. She’ll read them. I’ll encourage her to read them. And hopefully mother/daughter discourse will ensue.

There are so many valuable, wonderful, amazing books out there for teens—ones many should read. Just because of the slight explicit content in Thirteen Reasons Why should a library ban a book that I believe should be a required read for every freshman in high school? Just because teenagers who’ve only known each other for a week have sex, should Twenty Boy Summer be banned reading? Should candid discussions of sex be the reason Shut Out never makes it to a high school’s library shelf?

If you don’t like the content in a book, don’t read it. And parents, if you’re concerned as to what your kid’s reading, then read with them. And while you’re at it, make sure you monitor every movie and television show and YouTube video and Xbox game and Facebook status . But don’t get a book banned from a library that could save another kid’s life. Like Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Or Ellen Hopkins' Crank.

This week, I am a Reader, Not a Writer and I Read Banned Books are hosting the Banned Books Week Giveaway Hop. And I’m giving away a book and a gift card in honor of it.

First, one of my favorite Banned Books

Standing on the fringes of life... offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

I read, cried, and then reviewed this one sometime ago. You can check more out on this book here.

And if you’ve already read that book or would just like to pick out a banned book of your own, I’m also giving away a $15 Amazon Gift Card!

To win either the gift card or a copy of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, all you have to do is comment. Extra entries can be obtained as follows:

+1 follower of the blog

+1 follower on Twitter

+2 tweeting about the giveaway (@alisonmiller20)

And for the undying love of your favorite math geek, please tally your entries and mention that in the comments. Contest is open internationally and ends October 6 at 11:59 PM EST. Winners will be announced Monday October 8!

PS - there are soooo many particpants! Check out the list

So, support Banned Books Week and try to win a banned book. And then read it!

What’s YOUR take on Book Banning?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Nuggets from the King

Every year, I try to read at least one craft book, and after three years of “meaning to read” Stephen King’s semi-autobiographical craft book, ON WRITING, I finally did. And then I kicked myself for waiting SO LONG to read it! His book is a peep hole view into his fascinating journey to publication, but mostly it’s filled with astute observations and learned experiences regarding the craft. I learned a few new things, but mostly, his shared words of wisdom were extreme VALIDATION. As in, I already do most of what he advises to do.

Anyway, here are some quotes that resonated with me. And I’m sharing them with you.

Some Stephen King (mixed with my) thoughts ON

READING: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

When someone questions me as to why I try to read two books (I always read at least one) a week, I’ll quote Stephen King. Reading poor writing helps me know what not to do. Reading good writing helps with my own craft. Also, “Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life.” Plus, I enjoy it. Win-win-win all around.

ADVERBS: “The adverb is not your friend.” I already know this. You probably already know this. But Stephen King is adamant about limited adverb use. He mentions it—wait for it—copiously. Abundantly. Considerably throughout his craft memoir. Find a stronger verb. Show don’t tell. Another validation for my toolbox. How about yours?

PLOT: “I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless…and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity of real creation aren’t compatible.

I pantsed my first three projects, and when I started my current WIP, I felt like I needed to plot a bit more. And the plotting was worth it, but to be honest, I kind of like not knowing exactly where I’m going when I begin a story. I enjoy the art of discovery. And I felt like Stephen King wrote me a huge permission slip to pants a bit. To not know my ending when I start out. Is plotting completely wrong? I don’t think so. Plotting works really well for some people. Some people need a plan. And I actually believe spontaneity can exist in plotting. I still have my beat sheets for my shiny new ideas, but I think I’ll be okay to not have them completed when I go to write new projects.

DESCRIPTION: Indubitably my kryptonite.

“Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Overdescription buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium.”

“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the readers.”

I always feel like I don’t give ENOUGH description because yeah, as a reader I like to have a little left up to my imagination. I like to do the same for my readers. Permission granted, says Stephen King.

DIALOGUE: Whereas description is my kryptonite, dialogue is my superpower. I attribute it to years in the theatre and scene writing and years of working with teens, and I found Mr. King’s words on dialogue refreshing and validating. Some biggies that resonated with me:

“The key to writing good dialogue is honesty.” Interpretation: keep it real.

“It’s dialogue that gives your cast their voices,” and you can do so much SHOWING through cleverly crafted dialogue.

GETTING STARTED: “The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better.”

How many times have you procrastinated getting started on something new or revisions or that murky middle? And how many of you, once you sit your butt in the chair and force yourself to get started, find that the words start to flow and you finish a scene and wonder why it took you so long to get started?

*raises hand*

TIME BETWEEN DRAFTS: He recommends six weeks. Enough distance to still recognize it as yours, but it will also be like “reading the work of someone else, a soul-twin, perhaps.”

RESEARCH: “I simply made up all the stuff I didn’t know.”

Okay, so he doesn’t REALLY make up his own facts about things, but on first draft he does. Then he goes back and fills in the blanks later. I just felt like he wrote me a giant permission slip on that one too.

KNOWING THE MARKET: “Submitting stories without first reading the market is like playing darts in a dark room—you might hit the target every now and then, but you don’t deserve to.”

TIME TO WRITE and why Stephen King writes in the morning (and why I have to write in the morning!): “And the larger the work looms in my day, the more it seems like I hafta instead of just an I wanna…”

PERFECTING THE CRAFT: “You will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect. Why should it? What fun would that be?”


TEACHING: “…for the first time in my life, writing was hard. The problem was the teaching. I liked my coworkers and loved the kids—even the Beavis and Butt-Head types in Living with English could be interesting—but by most Friday afternoons I felt as if I’d spent the week with jumper cables clamped to my brain.”

Stephen King pretty much summed up my energy crisis with that last line.

LOVE: “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends…it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life.”

Yes. THAT.

And one of my favorites:

WHERE TO WRITE: “put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”

And I totally teared up writing that sentence because—ya know—I am such a SAP. But really, it's about priorities. Something I'm still learning. But I'm getting there.

There’s so much more I could “quote” here, about writing to an Ideal Reader and shutting the door on first draft, but you really do have to experience Stephen King for yourself. If you’ve not read it or if it’s been a while since you have, please pick it up. SO rejuvenating and refreshing. And oh, so validating.

What’s YOUR favorite quote from those listed today?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Follow Up

Happy Friday! I hope you've had a wonderful week! Here's my follow up

on WRITING/REVISING: I’m plugging away at that Black Moment. Still two parts in major need of a tune-up before I send it off to CPs, but I’m getting there. Truth be told, I’m working on the part after the Black Moment…the Dark Night of the Soul, when my mc feels lost and hopeless and oh, it hurts my heart. Anyway, I’m kind of feeling a little of that lost and hopelessness too. Not with my story…just with the time I have to work on my story and still do the fifty thousand other things I LOVE TO DO. Rebecca Behrens and Barbara Watson posted some brilliant, beautiful words about this earlier this week: finding balance and hope amidst life’s craziness. You should totally check out what they have to say.

Anyhoo, I’m getting there. Most importantly, I’m ENJOYING the journey. And I enjoy sharing it with YOU.

PS—gihugic thank yous for all the kind words on my story premise! (Wednesday’s RTW) Very encouraging and very sweet and I am super blessed for all my fabulous blogging friends!

Where are YOU with your writing?

on READING: I don’t know why it took Alison SO LONG to finally sit down and read ON WRITING by Stephen King. I know many of you have read it, but if you haven’t, stick a bookmark in your current read and find this book NOW.  J  Seriously, you won’t regret it. BEST CRAFT BOOK EVER. I’ll be sharing Stephen King wisdom Monday. Stay tuned.

Also, I will note that I want to add every Stephen King book to my TBR now.

What have YOU been reading?

on TRENDS: I’m blogging about smoking over at YA Confidential today. You can check it out here.

on FAMILY: My daughter continually asks me this

which pretty sums up the Miller family this week. CRAY. CRAY. Soccer games. Soccer practice. Dance. School. Work. More work. Oh, and my husband’s been dressing all cray cray for spirit week. Heat miser wigs to ref Powder Puff Games. Rolled jeans on Twin Day. Mullets and pleather pants on Decades Day.

He goes ALL OUT.

So, how have YOU been acting all CRAY CRAY?

on BOOK CLUBS: Do you belong to a book club? Mine is AWESOME. I love my book club ladies (non-book conversations are the best—brazilians, Fifty Shades…I think my group needs an R rating), and they get me to read tons of awesome books outside my preferred genre (The Help, Room, Bossypants). Anyway, I’m hosting next week and it’s my turn to put up the books for the next month! My choices always involve some YA love (already got them reading Hourglass and Hunger Games—I have to broaden their horizons too!) and I thought I’d ask you to help me narrow down my choices. Here’s my way too long list (that I need to shorten to THREE):

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Looking for Alaska by John Green

And since I’m really supposed to choose books I haven’t read before,

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

I try to choose books that the library has several copies of so that factors in a bit, and maybe you have some I should add to my list. Help. Please. Which books would you offer up if YOU were hosting book club?

on OTHER STUFF: Last Friday, my school’s football game was postponed due to inclement weather. My boys played Monday night—way too hard for this busy chick to see, and UGHHHHHHH I am SO SAD I missed that game! The score was 17-20 (we were losing) and with 22 seconds left in the game, one of my kids, on a quarterback sneak, pushed in three yards for the win! He actually scored the last two touchdowns of the game, and I hate that I missed it! a) because I teach so many football players and I want to be out there to support them and b) umm…last second touchdowns, miracle finishes? I WRITE ABOUT THIS STUFF!!! Missed a perfect research opportunity. *facepalm*

But I’m certain there’ll be other opportunities to watch great football.

And speaking of football, did anyone else see this?

6’4” Brent Celek hurdling Ed Reed in the Eagles ugly win over the Ravens last Sunday. Celek’s been my favorite Eagle for a while now. This just makes me heart him SO MUCH MORE.

Happy Friday! And have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

RTW: Tale as Old as Time

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic

In honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's CINDER, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

Well, this is easy.

If you’ve seen my query or have been keeping up with bits and pieces of my blog, you know my story is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It’s not exactly guy does bad thing, witch turns him into beast, guy has to find true love to break the curse,…okay, never mind. It’s totally like that, but it’s got a little twist to it too. Not an inverted fairy tale since the guy is still the one cursed, but his curse is a power most guys would...oh heck, I’m just going to share the premise.

Cue excerpt from Alison’s query (which she is mucho nervous about sharing *hides in corner*)

JD Marshall has a power most guys would trade their left nut for. With one hypnotizing look, he can get a girl to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. And for three years he’s racked up more scores than Brett Favre. But his power’s not a blessing. It’s just a curse.

And it is a curse. One he’s got three months to break or lose any chance of ever having a real relationship. The only way to break the curse—learn to love and be loved. Like that’s going to happen. JD needs to focus on quarterbacking his team to the state finals. He needs to pass freaking math. And he needs to quit thinking about Susan Milton. She’s taken. She’s forbidden. Worse—she seems to be the only one immune to his power.

Okay, so that’s only half my story blurb, and it still needs work, but hopefully you’re getting that Beauty and the Beast vibe. And maybe one day, you’ll even be able to read it! (ya know – if revisions would quit kicking my butt!)

So, yeah. I’m a Beauty and the Beast fan. I also LOVE Aladdin (which managed to work its way into my story too!) so I’d be totally cool with seeing that one redone in a totally unique manner. But for now I’ll keep plugging away at some true love breaks the spell stories.

How about YOU? What fairy tale or story would you like to see retold?! Got one of YOUR own? Tell me about it in the comments!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Scary Stuff

So, the big buzz this weekend was the attack on agent Pam van Hylckama (Larsen Pomada Literary) Hear about it? In a nutshell, she was in her car, preparing to pick up her daughter, and some guy broke off her side mirror, reached in and pushed her forcefully into her steering wheel before her dog attacked him. Turns out, the nut job was a writer that had queried her and whom she had rejected.


How did he know how to find her? According to the Los Angeles Times, “she's one of those people who has been comfortable living online, using Twitter, Facebook, and the check-in app Foursquare. And that may have been the problem…it may have just been that living so openly online may have allowed her attacker to track her down.”

First, let me say that in no way do I think this makes the attack HER fault. There’s obviously something wrong with psycho writer and I hope he stays behind bars or in some facility for a long time. But the article by the LA Times and then a response post by agent Jennifer Laughran certainly got me thinking about online privacy, how much I choose to share with others. And whether or not that’s a good thing.

How much of your life do you live online?I know at least a couple hours of my day are devoted to email and blogging and Facebook and Twitter. It’s a reality for many people. But gosh, we’re so…PUBLIC these days. Texts can get forwarded to an entire school faster than my daughter can type one, people I barely know are sharing some pretty intimate pics on Facebook and Twitter, check-ins and status updates can pin down locations of mere acquaintances.

And while there are certain things I WON’T share, there are probably certain things I shouldn’t divulge either. I’m guilty of sharing pics of my family on here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. My husband “checks us in” to events and restaurants for our entire Facebook families to see. I am somewhat cautious when it comes to posting about vacation—most often I don’t even talk about them until I’m back home. But most people know I live in Eastern NC and near the beach. Could someone find me if they really wanted to? Probably.

Scary stuff. How much sharing is too much? Do we just not share anything at all? Personally, I’ve met some pretty awesome people through blogging and Twitter, and there are certain things (pics, exciting news,…) I want to share with them.

In response to Friday’s events, Jennifer Laughran said, “you can't really predict or protect against a stranger snapping on you. And you can't live your life in fear.”

Yeah. THAT.

So, what are your thoughts? Have YOU seen these articles? Heard this news? Pam van Hylckama Vliegv has since limited her online time. Does this make you want to cut back on yours?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Follow Up (Currently...)

My friends Katy Upperman and Jessica Love did this cool Currently… post recently. They got the idea from Kate Hart. Who got it from Amy Lukavics. Who got it from here. Anyway, I thought I’d mix up my normal Friday Follow Up and join in the fun too! Here’s what I’m up to. Currently…


YA Confidential. My fellow operatives. Our teen spies and analysts. We’re having this gihugic anniversary giveaway, our favorite books just for YOU. Have you checked it out yet?

Also, our awesome teens are taking questions today. Ask them about school, books, movies, music. What teens are really up to. Or maybe you have a question that could help you with your WIP.


You know that little VOICE thing that all these agents and editors and bibliophiles everywhere are looking for? This book nails it. No. Take that back. This book SCREAMS voice. Like as loud and amazing and awesome as the music Audrey listens to. Swear to you, this book has the STRONGEST voice I’ve ever read. The kind of strong that makes me wonder why I ever thought I could do this writing thing, yet at the same time make me so passionate about writing that I just want to boot up my laptop and try to emulate a smidgen of Robin Benway’s talent.

And Audrey! She is so incredibly likeable and despite the insanity happening to her she’s so relatable and I love her and her bff and James and Jonah and Bendomolena and even Simon of the Lolitas (okay, maybe NOT him). And ohmygosh it’s so funny and fun and crazy good. CRAZY GOOD. Seriously one of the best reads this year.

Also, I would’ve never even known about this little piece of story heaven had it not been for the fabulous Tracey Neithercott, founder of the YA Book Club, blogger extraordinaire, and co-creator of cool book covers like these

Umm…Tracey’s pretty fabulous.

But back to AUDREY, WAIT! I mean, I know this book was released in 2008, but how is there so little buzz about this book?! This book deserves mad love and props and well, I’ll just have to give it a much more extensive gushy review in the future.


My children grow up too fast. Can someone please stop time for a few minutes, give me ten more hours in a day, let me ENJOY my children before they go off to college. My son’s in third grade. My daughter’s in eighth grade. When did THAT happen?

Thinking about…

My story. My characters. How much I love it and love them and all I want to do is work on my WIP even though I know I have so much more work to do. Also, I love that my mind is on my WIP practically twenty-four/seven. That even when I’m driving or grading papers or hanging out with my kids while they make me watch shows like The Amazing World of Gumball, my subconscious is sorting out tricky scenes and plot points.


SLEEP. I seriously walked around school Thursday looking and feeling like something off of Zombie Planet. I don’t usually sleep in on Saturdays, but my son doesn’t have a game until 1, and uh…this chick might be snoozing. Until ten.


Honestly? That I could shut the door on life for a while and just work on revisions. I know…I know. That sounds selfish and awful and I should totally be careful of what I wish for, but sometimes it would be nice to be an island. Even if just for a few hours.

And if that’s too much to ask for, then I wish that my house would magically clean itself. I think I’m about two fire hazards away from it being condemned.

Making me happy…

My family. Always.

What’s going on in YOUR life? Currently…

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Kindness Project: On Being Nice

When school started up two weeks ago, one of my roles involved reviewing the school handbook with my homeroom students. I co-advise a homeroom with a colleague and so on day two, she reviewed the “Expectations and Guidelines for Student Behavior.” (Fun!) Policies on bullying, disorderly conduct, after school detention, suspension, disrespectful behavior to others, blah, blah, blah. And after every new reviewed point, my colleague would conclude with “Just be nice. Everything boils down to JUST BE NICE.”

Just be nice.

Since then, I’ve adopted those three little words as my motto and as the motto of my classroom. I shout it out to my students as they leave class, remind nag them with it when they start talking junk, throw it in their faces when my second-graders seniors try to take someone out with crumpled paper. My kids are convinced I’m nuts (nothing new). One of my kids shakes her head every time and says, “That’s not going to happen with this class, Mrs. Miller.” Whatever. I pound my palm into my lectern and retort, “We’ll see about that.”

Just be nice.

Yeah, I know. It sounds dumb and simple and naïve, but that’s not stopping me from trying. And I know full well that I have to model the niceness too, some of which is completely natural to me. Picking up pencils when they fall on the floor. Offering kind words to someone who looks like they’re about to burst into tears any second. Paying forward a little kindness by offering to run off papers for a colleague or watching a class so someone can make that quick phone call.

But other times, not going to lie, it’s HARD to be nice. It’s hard to be nice when the same student asks me the same question three five TEN times and the rest of the class rolls their eyes in collective annoyance. It’s hard not lose it when someone asks me for the thousandth time, “Can I listen to music?” when it’s clear he knows the answer.

Or when, after a full day of work and several hours of tutoring and chauffeuring and making dinner and bathtimes and bedtimes, my daughter’s attitude rears its tired and ugly head. Or when my husband doesn’t close the dresser drawers—again. Or my son wants me to play Legos when I am falling asleep standing up after a long day.

Or when my life is scheduled down to the minute and I have twenty minutes to run in to Walmart, pick up a prescription, and run out and THEY DON’T HAVE IT READY.

Yeah, it’s tough to be nice. Two weeks into school and I am already wiped. There are times I would much rather find a hole to cry in than smile and answer questions and curb errant behavior and help my daughter with her homework.

But I’m trying to do it anyway.

(Oh, and just so we’re clear—being NICE does not mean being a PUSHOVER. I firmly believe that there is such a thing as being too nice. And that it has an adverse affect on the spread of kindness . But more on that in a future post.)

And here’s what I find, guys. On the days when the nice factor isn’t as strong, when I don’t feel like being nice but I force a smile and a helpful attitude anyway, the more I pretend to be nice, the easier and more believable and real it feels. Not all the time. But most of the time it makes me feel a little better.

So, just be nice.

I’ll have bad days. My students will have bad days. My family will have bad days. But working toward and modeling perpetual niceness may just be a little contagious. Maybe my students will hear Mrs. Miller in their head the next time they’re thinking about making a bad choice. Maybe they’ll want to do something kind for others. Maybe they’ll work a little harder on being nice.

Or maybe not.

But this whole just being nice thing is working for me.

For now.

So, how have YOU been nice to someone lately?

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

There IS Power in Adverbs!

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs.

Stephen King said that in his book ON WRITING. He also said this about adverbs.

Spend adverbs sparingly, like they were $100 bills.

He also dubbed them the literary equivalent of dandelions on your lawn.

Most writing gurus will try to get you to see adverbs as the devil. Why? After all, adverbs are an acceptable part of speech. However, most novice writers overuse them, using them when they can find a better verb. Characters “talk loudly” when they can “shout” or “walk clumsily” when they can “stumble.”

Adverbs tend to be redundant with newbie writers too. School bells clang loudly. (Umm…how else does something clang?) Music blares loudly (blaring’s only done at top volume, people) or people whisper quietly (most whispers are quiet).

PS - all these novice mistakes? I know ALL about them. My first project lived in Adverbia and I swear to you when I took many of the unnecessary ones out, my word count dropped at least 5K. Now, I concentrate on finding stronger verbs. Or try to show rather than tell.

So, adverbs as demon grammar spawn? Totally understandable. But here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with adverbs. I think we’re so ingrained to writer preaching of “get rid of those adverbs!” and “find a stronger verb!” that we’re reluctant to use them at all.

But even Stephen King has an occasional weed in his lawn.

I use them too. But let me tell ya. I try to make every word count. If I'm going to use an adverb, it's got to do more than just modify my verb. And in the past year, I’ve discovered a different way to use adverbs. Powerfully.

And I just demonstrated it. I don’t know if it’s an intended technique or if it’s just a voice-y thing, but I’ve been noticing a lot of "stand alone adverbs.” And man, is that little adverb placement at the end of a paragraph a powerful punch!

This little adverbial trend may have been around for a while, but Alison Come Lately first noticed it last year when reading THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER (Michelle Hodkin).

"It’s just a game, Mara.” She smiled, her teeth looking whiter in the dim light. Rachel and I had been best friends since preschool, and where she was dark and wild, I was pale and cautious. But less so when we were together. She made me feel bold. Usually.

See it? Adverb. On its own. End of paragraph.

Here are a couple other adverb instances from works you may be familiar with.

Like strips of photo-booth pictures or chains of white roses or Mexican loteria cards. Or maybe I’ll wear a great pair of swashbuckling boots and a plumed hat. And I’ll swagger to the stage with a saber on my belt and a heavy pistol in my holster, and I’ll thank my parents for showing me Gone with the Wind when I had the flu in second grade, because it taught me everything I needed to know about hoop skirts.

Mainly that I needed one. And badly.  LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR (Stephanie Perkins)

I know what they think because she whispers their thoughts into my ear. I can hear them. Clearly. Constantly.    SKINNY (Donna Cooner)

Todd Waterson’s house was a sprawling, three-level stucco contemporary with Craftsman influences. There were decks and terraces with panoramic views of the bay and the city. The property was secluded and quiet. Very.  11TH HOUR (James Patterson)

(Okay, so VERY is both an adjective and an adverb. But I liked this example and wanted to use it so there. *sticks out tongue*)

Or a favorite among my students. I failed. Epically.

I don't know about you, but I think that teensy adverb placed all by its lonesome can deliver a powerful impact and really bring out the action in your verb.

I’ve not only noticed it in stories but also in my speech. My emails. My friend’s doc comments. Pages we critique over at YA Confidential. And, of course, it’s found its way into my writing. Here's a sample from my boy JD.

Tori’s eyes are huge and I hate this for her, but I can’t take any more of Mom’s shit. She may never be here, but her evil spirit is a ubiquitous (SAT word = ever present) house haunt. I have got to get out of here. Permanently.

Of course, just like anything, moderation is key. Overuse of even this powerful adverbial technique will lessen the impact.

So go ahead. Use those adverbs. Sparingly. And let them give some power to your writing.

SIDE NOTE: Alison hasn’t read Stephen King’s ON WRITING yet. I have it, and believe it or not, it’s next on my TBR. But, man, reading all these Stephen King quotes makes me want to read it RIGHT NOW. And I would kick my current read back to the bedside table, but I’m reading AUDREY, WAIT! and ohmygosh it’s SO GOOD.

Have YOU noticed this adverb thingie (yes, Alison’s formidable brain did just say thingie)? What do YOU think about it? Also, have YOU read On Writing?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Follow Up

Happy Friday! How's your week been? Here's my follow up

on WRITING/REVISING: So, uh…about that Black Moment.  

*whistles* *averts to corner of room*

Yeah. Writing this week did not happen as often as Alison would like. Life had to take a front burner and I did not get near the revising done that I wanted to. L Unfortunately, I have weeks like that. It’s frustrating. It’s discouraging. BUT, I just reset my goals and try again for next week.

How about you? Did YOU meet your writing goals for the week?

on READING: After sending off forty-ish pages to a CP last Sunday, I rewarded myself with the end of Bitterblue. Could I have spent that time revising? Yes. But I also feel rewards are important. And so while I’m a little frustrated and disappointed with myself  for not meeting my writing goals for this week, I can’t be a self-slave driver all the time. And man, was that reward worth it! I loved, loved, loved BITTERBLUE!

Currently I’m reading this

And it’s AWESOME. Also, I won an ARC of it in a Rebecca Behren’s giveaway. Have you stopped by Rebecca’s blog? She’s a YA/MG writer repped by Suzie Townsend and her blog is chock-full of awesome writer tips and incredibly inspiring posts. Personally, I love stopping by her blog for posts such as “Hemingway slept here”(15 Writers’ bedrooms), and she points me to where I can purchase stuff like

has the entire text of The Great Gatsby on the poster

So. COOL. Plus, Rebecca is just an amazing person, one I’m so glad to have gotten to know through blogging!

Find any cool sites lately? What have YOU been reading?

on FAMILY: Last Saturday, the family had a most fun and successful beach trip, so fun and successful that we prepped for a return trip Sunday. And we were almost in the car until the thirteen year old and eight year old couldn’t postpone their game of tag two seconds longer. One missed tag and a couch stub later, my daughter broke her toe. And can’t play soccer or dance for two weeks. L

BUT, silver lining, she could’ve broken her foot. Or worse. And been out of commission a heck of a lot longer. And the husband and I were able to run a ton of necessary errands. And there’ll be other beach days.

This weekend my son has three soccer games, my daughter has two, and the husband has one. Apparently, I’ll be watching a lot of fütbol (and LOVING it). And Sunday, I’ll be sporting my Celek jersey and will be glued to some serious American FOOTBALL.

What are YOUR plans this weekend?

on OTHER STUFF: My Explorer is still sick and in recovery, but I should have it back today. And not having a car wasn’t terrible. I could walk to my tutoring sessions (and get my exercise!), I had wonderful company on the ride to and from school. And my mother lent me her car on occasion when I needed one. But I will be VERY HAPPY to have my own wheels back.

And my kiddos and husband spoiled me with an Amazon gift card for my birthday. Mentally, I’ve already spent it. On these…

Happy Friday! And have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

RTW: Oldie but Greatie

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic

Back to school time! What's your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

Considering I graduated high school and college too many years ago, the choice should probably not be easy, but I do remember a lot of what I read and quite a bit about those books. I had a lot I enjoyed (Death of a Salesman, Ethan Frome, Of Mice and Men), several I didn’t like (Beowulf, The Iceman Cometh, The Stranger—in FRENCH), and I had a few that I loved, loved, loved (King Lear, Waiting for Godot, The Bell Jar), but my favorite?

That one’s EASY

A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

WHY is it my favorite? Well, it just IS. I know…hardly an explanation. But as I thought about it, I had a really hard time deciding why I choose to reread this book when my juniors study Gatsby every year, why my heart tingles when I read an update about the movie. Why I just love the story even though the ending breaks my heart every time I read it. But I’ll try to offer up a few reasons. J

1) The color schema: my English teacher made a big ado about it, and I’m so glad she did. WHITE = purity(Daisy’s face); yellow = greed (Gatsby’s necktie); green = hope (light at end of Gatsby’s dock)… I just thought the color symbolisms were so cool.

2) The time period. Alison is not a huge historical fiction fan, but put me in the twenties with the clothes and cars and the music (JAZZ!) and the architecture and…*swoon* I could take up permanent residence in West Egg, thank you.

Also: when my juniors read this, their English teachers usually celebrate the end of the unit with a Gatsby Day and give extra credit for dressing up twenties style. Man, do I want to be a flapper for a day, but haha—I don’t think that would go over to well.

3) The parties. The lavish, fast-paced lifestyle of the way too rich and famous. Yeah, again. Wouldn’t’ mind spending a summer or two (or five) in West Egg.

4) The movie: the 1974 Robert Redford version I watched spring of 1986? I remember LOVING it. So, I was a little nervous but a whole lot excited for the Leo DiCaprio version that was SUPPOSED to debut at Christmas and now I just feel ANNOYED that I have to wait until the summer of 2013. GRRR.

5) The characters. Characters I love and hate at the same time (DAISY). Characters I hurt for (GATSBY).  I even love the characters I hate (TOM). Gatsby contains a beautifully rounded COLORFUL cast. And my favorite? The narrator: NICK CARRAWAY. Won’t even try to explain why. He just IS.

6) Um...that COVER. Enough said.

7) The prose. Concise. Poignant. Breath-takingly beautiful.

I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, as if he related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened - then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.

SEE! Also, I refall in love with the word supercilious every time I read it. (Yes—Alison IS a word nerd)

So, what’s YOUR favorite book you had to read for a class? Did YOU read The Great Gatsby? Love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!