Friday, October 24, 2014

The heart of the matter

"With every encounter, we might be changing who we are forever, and when it is over, we might never see each other again."
--Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Hiroshima in the Morning

This, maybe, is at the core of stories; it is why they are worth telling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The MFA question, and live and let live

Writers sometimes wonder if they should get a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing: is it worth it? Will it make them better writers? Lead to jobs in the industry? Give them valuable insider connections?

Over at Three Guys One Book, Joseph Rakowski interviews Jennifer duBois on the subject. It's a good interview if you've been considering an MFA. But I also love this statement of duBois's at the very end, which can apply to so many more issues and questions beyond the scope of the MFA topic:

"... other people’s choices or lives are not necessarily a rebuke to our own—-they may, in fact, have nothing to do with us at all."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

OCD Love Story

One of the most memorable YA books I've read recently is Corey Ann Haydu's OCD Love Story.

ocdlovestory
The title is its own synopsis, I think.

It was refreshing to meet characters and situations that haven't been overdone in YA. The character Beck was a treat--a nice guy with big problems, a love interest who is not arrogant, a big muscular guy who is not an overconfident jock straight out of Revenge of the Nerds. The ways in which he and main character Bea struggle to support each other in the face of their respective compulsions are by turns endearing, wonderful, and sad. Sometimes it seems they're perfect for each other; other times you wonder if they'll just make each other worse. Also rounding out the book is a complicated best-friend character with her own problems and her own blind spots, and a therapist who is saved from seeming unrealistically wise and perfect by a few moments when Bea (and we) see her hit a wall of frustration and fatigue.

Haydu got so much right about anxiety, obsession and compulsion: Not everyone with obsessions and compulsions washes their hands constantly or adheres to a military-style neatness. You can't just reason your way out of it, even when you see that you're behaving illogically. Fears often grow from a seed of truth and reasonableness--for example, driving really is dangerous statistically, and merging onto a highway is one of the trickier driving moments--into a situation that makes no sense, as when the protagonist drives 35 MPH on the highway, or repeatedly circles a block to make sure she hasn't run over a child playing in a yard near the street.

In novels that reach into the land of psychology and psychiatry, there can be temptations to patness both in describing the source of an illness (connecting mental illness directly to an early-life trauma) and in its treatment or cure. OCD Love Story veers close to this at some points, particularly in the case of Beck, but in the end opts for realistic changes and improvements rather than magical cures, and Bea acknowledges that many of her behaviors cannot be neatly explained or traced back to an identifiable root.

The one note of caution I will include here is the possibility that some readers with OCD may find this book triggering. From browsing online reviews, I see that this was so for some readers, while other readers with OCD find the story more of a relief.

source of recommended read: library

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Special Today

"There was always a sign proclaiming Special Today with nothing else written on it, which I interpreted as [the restaurant's] announcement that these Sundays were important, that this today was a Special Today."
--Floyd Skloot, In the Shadow of Memory

Friends, are you having a Special Today? If not, I hope it's a Special Tomorrow.

Monday, October 13, 2014

On letting go of perfectionism

"... I feel now so far beyond that perfectionist streak which would be flawless or nothing--now I go on in my happy-go-lucky way and make my little imperfect worlds in pen and on typewriter and share them with those I love."
--Sylvia Plath, Letters Home: Correspondence 1950-1963, ed. by Aurelia Schober Plath

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A few bookish thoughts

--October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and I'm honored that my third novel, Until It Hurts to Stop, was on the NY Public Library's list of revelant YA books about bullying, along with books by Meg Medina, Barry Lyga, Susane Colasanti, and others. In Until It Hurts to Stop, I chose to deal with the aftermath of bullying: how it can affect people and their relationships years later, and how the process of healing can start.

--Also on that topic: YALitChat, the Wednesday-at-9-PM-Eastern Twitter chat, featured a great discussion about bullying, YA books, the role of teachers and parents and other adults, etc. You can still read the discussion by checking out the #YALitChat hashtag. I understand that next week's chat will continue the discussion.

--Finally and sadly: Zilpha Keatley Snyder passed away. I grew up reading and loving so many of her books: The Egypt Game, The Witches of Worm, The Velvet Room, and especially The Headless Cupid and Below the Root. I'm glad that her books are still in print, and her most recent book, William's Midsummer Dream, came out in 2011. May we all have such long and fruitful careers! I hope she knew how many of us readers loved and were inspired by her work.