Congratulations, Sir Terry Pratchett!

About a month ago (I really am that behind), I received an email that revealed that author Terry Pratchett had won the Margaret A. Edwards Award “for a significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature.” I was excited for several reasons:

A disc, atop four elephants, on the shell of a giant turtle- the Great A'Tuin.

1) I adore Terry Pratchett. He’s a genius.

2) I had decided a few weeks before that I was going to bring his works to the blog and justify them as young adult. He has a few books in that section of the bookstore, but I was going to make the case for his canon.

3) Now I can do the second without worrying about making a case. It’s already made.


This is exciting stuff. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Terry Pratchett is the creator of Discworld, among many other works. His Discworld series is what I will primarily review in upcoming posts. He’s a British author with dozens of books published, numerous awards (including being knighted) and honorary doctorates. He’s something of a national treasure and a literary treasure. His books are hysterical satires that play with everything=- and I mean everything. Philosophy, religion, logic, social structures, psychology, sociology, quirks of people, existentialism, individualism, feminism, and any other “ism” you may like. He comments on them quickly and moves on in many cases, while working out others a bit more thoroughly. They’re brilliant for classes or just for amusement.

I was especially pleased to find out that they singled out two of my favourite Pratchetts: Equal Rites and Mort. These I will review very soon, in addition to one of the other singled-out works: Going Postal. I listened to this on audio after my recent eye surgery (couldn’t actually read), and found it very interesting. There is a lot going on with this work as well.

But for now, Inklings would like to emphasize it’s congratulations to Sir Terry Pratchett for his new recognition. I’m so pleased to have so  many reasons to talk about his work on upcoming posts.


Lessons Learned

I had eye surgery about a month ago, and I haven’t been able to do as much computer work. This killed me, because I had a few things to blog about and lost the ability. How frustrating!

That said, my first post-op blog is going to be about lessons in writing. I recently finished a short piece (not my usual) in a fanfic (not my usual) chicklit (still, not my usual, but might become more usual before long) and submitted it for a contest (now it’s time to star the calendar). I haven’t gotten a reply yet (obviously), but I already have learned lessons.

They’re pretty obvious: First, don’t write on the fly. Sometimes this works. Deadlines can help (I rejected them before, but the pressure can help), but waiting until the pressure is too “on” may not be wise.

Second, and much more importantly, don’t skip your proofreaders. I didn’t skip proofreading… I read it over and over and over and over like everyone does. I found a lot of things and fixed them. I’m talking about your proofreaders. If you don’t have one or two, get them. I have two very regular and several semi-regular. Because of the deadline (see Lesson 1), I just proofed it myself. Then they read it. They both found (different) large errors. Clear desk, apply head. Repeat step 2. Do I still foolishly hope? Naturally. It wouldn’t be the writing world if we didn’t foolishly hope against hope.

Thirdly, don’t write when you’re blind or having trouble seeing (unless you dictate). If you are having trouble with your vision, whether you dictate or not, emphasize Lesson 2.

So, back to the computer, the notebook, and the magic pen.

The Effects of Multitasking on the Amateur Writer

It’s been a bit of a writing adventure lately. I have one very long (okay, massive) fiction piece that I’ve been working (and reworking) on for a long, long time. It occurred to me that this may not be the best ever first pitch to a publishing company. I mean, that’s a huge commitment for a company to make on someone who isn’t brilliantly established. Naturally, we all dream of being J.K. Rowling, but let’s get real here.

So I pondered….

and I pondered…

and pondered some more…




and I came up with a possible solution: I’ll do a different novel to start. One that’s stand alone for one, and “chick lit” (to be crass) for another. It’s a much larger industry, which doesn’t make it easier to get published, exactly (if only), but in theory it might be easier to pick out the market and sell myself. Besides, it could be fun. So, I got started. To make myself happy, I’m playing with classic literature, classic films, and outright snarkiness. Write the books you’d like to read, they always say, so I’m going to try. The challenge: I read suspense and mysteries. People die. They seldom marry. Men may or may not be debonair. So, I’ve been reading more in the genre, to get a feel for it, and that helps, some.

Beware women who read- they may also think.

In the middle of that process, I found, courtesy of a dear friend, a contest that could be an awesome opportunity. It’s for shorter pieces than I’m used to, but it’s worth a try. The worst thing that can happen is it doesn’t get published and I have something I can expand and try to publish myself. It’s in a booming section of the publishing industry, so maybe I’ll have a little luck.

Thus, I have stories stacked to the ceiling in my head. Characters floating around, arguing for attention. Having a new story (not to mention a deadline) gives me great ideas for the other pieces. No doubt when I finish this and submit it, then move on to one of the others, I will have brilliant ideas for this piece.

A friend and excellent (not to mention successfully published) writer has advised that writing two books at the same time can be helpful, especially if one is darker and the other lighter. It’s a good theory, because it does block full writer’s block. But the focus issue… and that deadline.

So, I continue, trying to piece together the shorter story, desperately trying to get it completed under the deadline and praying something amazing happens.

Finding a Christmas Story

Last year at Christmas, I went through some of my favorite children’s stories for Christmas. These were mostly the traditional ones, and most them have movies (or I talked about the movies…). For good Christmas movies, please visit my friends at ABCs of Classic Film, where there will be a series of holiday recommendations coming soon. It promises to be a good read.

Meet Molly: An American Girl cir. WWII

That said, I was pondering a good Christmas post, and I remembered the Christmas I got my American Girl doll. Now, I wasn’t really the “doll” kind of girl. I preferred other play. However, I desperately wanted an American Girl doll, and settled on Molly. This was a long process with lots of childhood and sentimental reasons, which I will skip. But, suffice it to say, I was thrilled. In fact, I still have her. She’s in storage, but still mine.

This made me think of those American Girl books. They have many more than they did at the time, and truth be told, I have not read the new ones, so this review reflects the girls dating through Addy.  To cut to the chase, I recommend the entire series. They’re wonderful, particularly for girls from about 7 or 8 through about 11 or so. They follow strong girls through real issues that girls can relate to- and they do it at a point in history. Not only do young readers see how these girls handle familiar issues, they see a snapshot of U.S. history, and I’m all for that. Even better, they were popular. They were insanely popular when I was in school. They actually encouraged children to read. So, for that, I just have to be rather over the moon about them.




But really,  what has this to do with Christmas? Well, each series has a book that covers Christmas time, which could be very fun to do at Christmas- comparing how each girl celebrates it and how they are the same and different for the reader. More specifically, though, I want to go back to Molly.

Molly’s Christmas story, Molly’s Surprise, takes place, as they all do, while her father is off fighting in WWII. Throughout the series, Molly lives with her family, missing her father. And he is a wonderful father, very devoted and loving. Through the conversations they have, it is very clear that they love him dearly and are really feeling his absence.

To this day, several scenes stick out for me, and I can remember them almost verbatim. Molly is compared to her father, having all of her Christmas gifts wrapped and hidden well before Christmas time is one of the most notable. Looking at it now, from a different perspective, I see a family feeling a void and each person stepping in to somehow fill it. Molly misses her father and steps in to do some things like he did. Her mother (who makes the comment about her gift-wrapping efficiency), recognizes this. It’s natural. It’s how families often operate.

I also came to a second conclusion: This book, the whole series in fact, is a perfect selection for children, particularly girls, who have a parent deployed, whether it’s long deployments or sporadic ones. Molly expresses the difficulty children face when a parent may be deployed.  Although the current war (avoiding all political commentary- that is not the purpose of this blog) is different from WWII in many ways, the fact that children miss their parent(s) during deployment hasn’t changed. Children may relate well to Molly, and they can see how she handles life well, and when she doesn’t. The books, though upbeat and inclined toward happy endings, tell the truth and continue to be lovely stories with a few beautiful illustrations.

So, my Christmas story of choice this year is Molly’s Surprise, for it’s endearing protagonist, accessible and currently relevant theme, charming story, and, of course, nostalgia. It’s an unusual pick for a Christmas story- not one everyone mentions, but give it a try. Give each girl a try. I won’t give away the ending on this blog, so go read and enjoy.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, etc. etc. Whether you celebrate or not, take a little time out for rest, warmth, and cookies, because, baby, it’s cold outside.

Southern Fried Child… In Home Seeker’s Paradise

Southern Fried Child... In Home Seeker's Paradise

I know that most of the time I keep discussion to young adult fiction, with the occasional comment on the writing process thrown in, but I want to divert our attention briefly.

I was recently reading a memoir- a little bit different from young adult fiction- by Jimmie Meese Moomaw. It outlines her life as a child growing up in Brookhaven, MS. It’s a truthful, funny, genuine account of her experiences through the touching, the hilarious, the unbelievable, and the trying times of her childhood.

Her writing style is appropriate for young adults and “adult” adults, alike. Some “grown-ups” may relate well to her stories, depending on their own experiences, but many of the themes are easily relatable for people in general.

An interesting note is the book’s structure. We don’t often look at a book’s structure when reading the story, but it’s such an important component of how it functions, at the risk of sounding like Frank Lloyd Wright. Southern Fried Child is composed of a series of short stories ranging from very short episodes (think flash fiction) to fully drawn out short stories. They don’t follow a particular line, like a novel would, but hold their own within the theme of Jimmie Moomaw’s life.  Thus the structure itself works much like a collection of short stories. This is an interesting concept, because our memories work much the same way. We don’t remember every event in detailed, perfect chronological order like a novel, but in pieces and flashes, some longer and with more detail than others. Each memory is important all on it’s own, regardless of the context or perhaps because of the context, depending on the memory.

Jimmie Meese Moomaw’s work is not only a memoir, but a glimpse at how we remember, which makes it a rather unique type of memoir. The pieces work together to make a complete story, but each piece is a story all it’s own. It’s thoroughly entertaining and amusing, very accessible, and welcoming to read. But don’t expect it to be simply fuzzies: it’s an honest recollection of memories, with no pretense of anything except being what it was: a childhood.

This is a great piece for older children to teenagers, as well as adults; people with a social, nostalgic, psychological, family, or intuitive/reflective bent will enjoy this book especially.  And if you read it without ever laughing… check your sense of humor.

More information about Jimmie Meese Moomaw is available on her website and Facebook under Southern Fried Child.

The Mysterious Benedict Society 2

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey (MBSPJ) is the second installment following Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance.

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

Our four friends are back together again, this time to save Mr. Benedict, who has gone missing. After planning a wonderful surprise for the children, Mr. Benedict and Number 2 are kidnapped, and it’s up to Reynie and his friends to work together, sorting out clues, to find them before time runs out. This will take them on a long, dangerous international journey and requires all of their gifts to save their friends. We’re reunited with most of the major characters in the first novel, along with a number of new ones- not to mention more mystery and more puzzles.

Just as the first novel was clever and endearing, MBSPJ easily pulls in the reader and takes them right along for the ride. Each puzzle is outlined for the reader to solve- or try to solve- on their own. The MBS encounter more places, more people, and more puzzles than ever- and with their beloved Mr. Benedict in peril, the stakes may be even higher.

This book has all the wonderful qualities of the first, complete with a new story. Some of my favorite additional themes:

Trust and Honesty: How do you know if you can trust people? Is deception ever okay?

Loyalty: How far would loyalty take you, and how loyal is loyal?

Mercy, Justice, and the Greater Good: Without spoiling the plot, Kate has to make a fast decision about revenge, safety of others, mercy, and most importantly her own set of values.

Teamwork: Important in the first book as well, teamwork for these four may be even more important on this adventure. No one person could meet this lofty goal alone.

This book, just as the first, is Inklings Recommended, and is appropriate for ages 8 (ish) and above. Get ready for the humor, the puzzles, they mystery, and an even bigger adventure!

Soon to come (probably after Christmas): The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

The Mysterious Benedict Society 1

This is the first in a series of posts about… wait for it… a book series. Naturally, this post is about Book 1.

The Mysterious Benedict Society

I began reading these books out of curiosity. I love a story that feels “clever,” and from the first page, The Mysterious Benedict Society delivers. The story follows four very unusual, gifted children: Reynie, Sticky, Kate, and Constance as they are tested for their abilities, drafted (more or, less), trained, and sent on a great adventure to save the world from the diabolical plans of Mr. Ledroptha Curtain (read it out loud… there you go). Mr. Curtain’s plan for world conquest is complicated and hard to battle, and so the Mysterious Benedict Society (so named for their mentor, the brilliant and eccentric Mr. Benedict), have their work cut out for them.

I won’t give away all of the twists and turns of the plot, but I’ll tell you that I read most of this book in the same day.  The author, Trenton Lee Stewart, carefully weaves the tale while placing numerous simple jokes in names, places, and ideas, purely for the enjoyment of the reader. Moreover, the reader has the opportunity to solve the puzzles right along with our young heroes, which is an added bonus.

This book is great for entertainment, and it also pulls the reader into a little critical thinking along the way with the overall plot mysteries, hidden humor, and presented puzzles. It’s a great piece for classrooms and read aloud as well, due to it’s easy conversion to the interactive.

I love the themes in this work, outlined beautifully in the characters, especially Reynie:

Need for belonging: Everyone feels it, and it’s hard when you don’t feel like you fit in anywhere. When you find your place, it’s worth cherishing.

Friendship: It does mean accepting people, even when they can be difficult or annoying.

It’s okay to be different: Each member of the MBS is highly unique. Not only are they extremely different from other children, they’re terribly different from each other. However, they work well together, and their unique abilities are exactly why Mr. Benedict wanted them for his team. If you feel out of place, find a new context- you’re skills can be used for good things.

Critical thinking: You can do it, too. Solve puzzles, reach conclusions. What does given information mean for you? Children can think this way, and they should.

This is definitely an Inklings Recommended book for ages 8(ish) and above. It’s fun for adults, as well as children. Keep in mind, this is a longer book, so young children may prefer it in shorter doses- it’s 512 pages, after all.

Be on the lookout for the next installment: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey

The Giver

Semi-accidentally, I ended up re-reading The Giver this weekend. I had long intended on reviewing this book, but hadn’t gotten to reading it again. Then, it just happened that I did.  I first read this in the seventh grade at school. I didn’t just love it when I read it the first time, but the comments and ideas from the characters stayed with me. I found it infinitely relatable.

The Giver takes place in a fictional world where there is no color to speak of, no decisions, no pain, and most importantly, no differences.  The governing council of elders decides your career, your spouse, and all children are applied for and adopted. All children age at the same time and have the exact same rites of passage for each age. Jonas, our protagonist, is about to become Twelve. Twelve is the last “age” of consequence. At this time, each child is given their future career, based on their volunteer hours and experience (the only time they ever make a choice for themselves- choosing where to spend volunteer hours) and abilities. (Readers may relate some element of the Dragonriders of Pern, where the dragons choose their riders who have been preparing for this moment as they come of age.)  Jonas become Receiver of Memories, which gives him new truths about the world before everything was as he knows it to be. Getting this new information is difficult and leads to a lot of difficult decisions for Jonas about right and wrong, what is “best” and what it means to be “free.”

Reading this book again, I recognized a lot of Plato’s famous cave allegory, where he also explored the notion of reality and truth.  Like the people looking at the shadows, the society simply existed with the truth that it had. Some of the decision-makers and other adults could see some of what made the shadows (the figures), but their knowledge was very limited. Only the Receiver actually left the cave. There was no way for Jonas to explain to the others what he saw, that their reality was completely contrived, no matter how badly he wanted to share this with others. I will not spoil the ending with his decision.

Several themes interesting for young readers appear in The Giver:

Being different: Here is a society where everyone is equal by being the same. Mistakes are minimized. Everyone is perfectly socialized. But is it worth it?

Truth and Reality: Not the first book I’ve reviewed with this theme. The Giver questions how truth appears and how reality is defined, even suggests that our reality quite literally can be created.

Knowledge, Freedom, Individuality: How dangerous is it? Do people have the right to have it?

Safety: How safe do we need to be? What makes us “safe”? How safe is safe enough?

Right and Wrong: Is it safe? Truth? Kind? Equal? Just? Merciful?

Euthanasia: Do we have a right to? Should we? Is it kinder to the individual? To society?

Social Rules: What does society have the right to demand? How much should an individual give to the social contract that allows someone to be a citizen of any social group?

These are just a few of the major themes, mentioned extremely briefly.  Inklings recommends this book, especially for the middle and high school ages. This is the time when children begin to make adult decisions, just like Jonas. The position of the Twelves is easy to relate to through adolescence, and the themes are very important to forming identity for adolescents.

Inklings Recommended.

Ages: 10-12 and up

Beka Cooper: Mastiff

It seems like all I’m doing lately is putting up announcements for upcoming books. Why, Caelyn, are you not posting about books you’re actually reading?

In truth, I have no good excuse. In truth, I have some books to post, but it’s been so long between reading and posting that I now need to re-read the books to post well about them. Why haven’t I done this? I’d say time constraints, but that’s not as true as one might think. I simply haven’t made it. I’ve been reading “adult” books of late. Could I post about them? Yes. Does it defy my theme: probably. I may expand later, but to be honest the brilliant themes I find in the YA genre simply don’t appear in “adult” fiction in quite the same way. They can be fun. They can be deep. They can be beautiful. But there is something inherently different. When I put a finger on that, I’ll post about it.

All that said, I do want to announce about Beka Cooper: Mastiff. This the third book in the Tortall series by Tamora Pierce. You can be certain that I’ll read and promptly post about it. I’m looking forward to it.

If you’d like some more information about it before it comes out, there are a few notes here.

That is all for the moment… more blogs on writing soon.


Another Shusterman Tribute

In case you haven’t guessed, Inklings (i.e. I) is (am) a fan of Neal Shusterman. Not all Shusterman novels are on Inklings, yet, but they will be eventually.

Most notably, I’ve been blogging about the Skinjacker Trilogy (see Everlost and Everwild). In a flash of procrastination, er, inspiration, I found the Neal Shusterman blog, which will remain on my blogroll for those interested.

Because I also blog about the writing process and haven’t done so for a while, I thought I’d attach one of his blogs about his process. (Note: Everfound out next summer). From the writing perspective, it’s very identifiable, and entertaining reading otherwise.

That said, I want to talk briefly about the idea of travel for writing inspiration. I’m for it. Like your “element” (See Pavlov, Eat Your Heart Out), travel can do wonders for that creative spark. Works for me. New places bring new ideas, but they aren’t always forthcoming, even with travel. Nor are they controllable. It’s one of the major internal conflicts writers face.

In my humble opinion, Shusterman’s stories work because he obeys the rule Character First. This usually develops into quite the tirade for me, so I’ll try to be brief. To sum up, listening to the characters is crucial. Even more crucial than where you want the plot to go. Shusterman’s post preceding the link above discusses that briefly. If you ignore character inclination, you sacrifice their “realness” and your readers’ attachments for the sake of a plot. The characters then fail, and thus, so does the plot. If you don’t care about the characters or are unable to believe them ( “align with” in counseling lingo), the plot will have little relevance for you, the reader. As I’ve mentioned before, characters in Shusterman’s novels, as is especially true in the young adult genre are so creative, yet so real that they pull you in to the story.

So, mission of the week (or period of time between posting): How do you develop strong characters? Let characters drive the story. How do we reach that enigmatic plane where we  release the characters and let them run?