“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas: A Discussion Guide For Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

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Angie Thomas’s YA novel The Hate U Give is a stark and raw platform for discussions on racism, prejudice, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is also, just as simply, a wonderfully crafted novel rich in character, setting, and excellent story telling. Through Starr, Thomas offers a voice to readers living the reality of violence, drugs, and racism while simultaneously offering a window into that life for readers whose experiences are very different. Thomas blends the harshest moments of her main character’s reality—the police shooting of her friend, intimidation by a local drug lord, and gang violence—seamlessly with the universal teenage experiences of friendship drama, first loves, and the push/pull of independence from home and parents. This juxtaposition paints a picture often not represented, or sometimes misrepresented, on book shelves. Continue reading

Under The Skylight: Cultivating Objectivity In Revision

by Erin Dionne

MY FIRST BLOG POST (you can find it here) detailed the three major elements I feel are crucial for approaching a successful revision. The first one I want to discuss in more depth is objectivity.

Being able to see our work with fresh eyes is a necessary part of the writing process. In a perfect world, we’d take time away from every draft and let it simmer until reading it felt like reading the work of someone else. But what if you’re on a deadline, or planning to submit to a contest, or there’s some other reason why you need to rush through that revision process? Here are a few ways to artificially cultivate the objectivity that occurs when we leave our manuscript alone: Continue reading

Post-Conference Musings

by Cathy Stenquist

Cathy StenquistBe proud of your place in the journey. You are not an impostor; you are the real thing. Welcome.” —Josh Funk, NESCBWI coordinator

JOSH’S WORDS JUMPSTARTED MY LEARNING for the weekend.

Lesson #1—Find a buddy.

I arrived early to park and check in. At the registration desk, I spied one of The Loft’s light blue lanyards, worn by Alice Fulgione, who greeted me with a hug. I felt like the new kid at school, latching onto a friend to feel at ease. After lunch at the MVP Lounge, we used our maps to find our classes. Continue reading

Quick and Dirty Events—Ask an Event Coordinator!

by Allison Pottern Hoch

Allison Pottern HochABOUT A MONTH BEFORE AN EVENT with a debut author, I’d get a call from them. They would be bursting with enthusiasm—and terror. They were about to get up and do…what? For how long? Would anyone be there? We would take some deep breaths together and I would answer their questions. Here are some of the most common queries:

Do people even come to book events?

YES!

How do I get people to come?

People will only come to your event if they know about it. So make sure to pick a venue/date/time that will appeal to your audience and then get the word out. Send out invites to the people you know and post flyers and promote through co-sponsors and social media to the ones you don’t.

Should I dress-up?

Wear something you feel good and comfortable in, with an eye towards looking professional–unless you’re dressing to match your book. I’ve worked with authors dressed as pirates, lighthouses, you name it. That works too! Continue reading

“Echo” by Pam Muñoz Ryan: A Discussion Guide for Writers

by Kelly Carey

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Pam Muñoz Ryan’s middle-grade novel Echo weaves three historical fiction stories together with a flick of fairy tale magic. A witch’s curse and a magic harmonica travel from Nazi Germany to Depression-era Pennsylvania and to Southern California amidst World War II before colliding in New York City. Writers can use Ryan’s novel as a mentor text for exploring the tools and pacing needed to bring different story threads together, evaluating the balance between story and history in a historical fiction novel, and examining how endings affect a reader’s experience.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Echo.  As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Ryan’s methods. Continue reading

Under The Skylight: Revision

by Erin Dionne

I FULL WELL ADMIT IT: I’m not a great writer. I’m an okay one.

But I’m a great reviser.

Having the ability to revise, to not be precious about your words so that you can clearly execute your book’s idea, is one of the single best skills you can cultivate as an author. Strong revision skills make your writing go from good to great, and so on.

Being a strong reviser requires three things: objectivity, persistence, and desire to create the best story you can. Let’s take a closer look at each: Continue reading

Couch to 30K

by Laura Woollett, PMP

NOVELISTS ARE OFTEN TOLD that the way to get the job done is through many hours of “butt in chair.” There’s truth to this. You can’t write a novel without writing one word at a time. But where to start? And how to gain momentum, especially when you’re just beginning a new project?

Try thinking about the process of writing a novel in a different way—like a runner. Novice runners sometimes follow a plan called the “couch to 5K,” which allows for someone who is pretty sedentary to work their way up to running a 5K race. Writing is similar in many ways to running. It’s REALLY hard to run a race only days after deciding to do it, especially if you’ve never run any farther than from your car to Dunkin’ Donuts on a cold morning. (Guilty!) In the same way, it’s REALLY hard to write a novel without building your writing muscles and stamina over time.

Continue reading