janflora:

I actually wanted to be a ghostwriter at one time, but I was thinking more along the lines of the Carolyn Keene or V.C. Andrews variety. Do not think I could handle working with the celeb/surreality show culture.

Originally posted on Shelf Life:

[ew_image url=”http://img2.timeinc.net/ew/i/2014/06/20/kendall-and-kylie-jenner.jpg” credit=”Rob Kim/Getty Images” align=”none”]First comes fame, then the magazine covers, the signature perfume, the makeup collection, and—yes—the novel.

Tyra Banks, Pamela Anderson, Nicole Ritchie, and Britney Spears are just a few of the stars who have novels to their credit, and much like clothing collections or advertising gigs, their literary offerings are considered a commercial product with which to cash in on their fame. And the latest to join the celebrity-turned-novelist club are teen darlings Kendall and Kylie Jenner, who catapulted to fame as the half-sisters of Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney Kardashian.

The Jenner sisters—ages 18 and 16—have just released their first novel, Rebels: City of Indra, marketed as dystopian story about two girls who take off on a journey “amid the constant threat of danger.” But is there any pretense that Jenners or any other celebrity—with their modeling and reality television careers—actually sit down and write these…

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I hope everyone is just about thawed out now and enjoying spring. I barely made it through the kids’ Spring Break last week. While we are enjoying warm breezes here, we are also breathing in all the pretty yellow pollen. My head is just about to blow up. Generally, though, I love Spring. It definitely puts some more energy in my writing flow. And April is chock full of fun and treats for writers and readers.

I’ve been seeing lots of chatter on the Twitter about Scriptfrenzy, brought to us by the kind people who plot NaNoWriMo every year. The goal is a 100-page script finished in 30 days, which is undoubtedly harder than it sounds. Kudos to all you wild souls in a frenzy right now :) It has to be a great way to learn the genre. I want to try my hand at a play, but am not starting another project now. I always liked reading plays and scripts, which is sort of odd (maybe? At least for a non-thespian, I think). I remember devouring “Plays” magazines and drama collections when I was in elementary school. Then, of course, I learned about Shakespeare, as well as geniuses like Ibsen and Miller. I even did a thesis paper on Lillian Hellman in my junior year. Maybe I subconsciously wanted to be a playwright, though that was when I was sure I would be a Pulitzer-prize winning  journalist by, um, now. Screenplay writing seems to be a whole other beast that I know little about. I did try “writing a movie” with a friend in ninth grade, which was going to star River Phoenix. Sadly, that can never happen, so my Hollywood dreams faded away.

I have been writing some poems for the April Poem-A-Day challenge over at Poetic Asides. April is, of course, Poetry Month. I always thought it was because  Shakespeare was born in April, but I could be wrong. Either way, it is a good month to read and write poetry of all types. Apparently there is also a NaPoWriMo which I did not know about, though 2011 is the ninth year. Though I usually write poems only when “inspired,” I sort of like using the prompts Robert Brewer comes up with daily. I have not written all of them, but it has been a nice writing stretch while I ignore the WIP and focus on work. Poems are relatively quick and easy, though they also force us to use other thinking muscles. Personally, poetry has always been my relaxing writing, when I just want to expand on a thought or event, though sometimes I have written in anger or other forms of stress. Sometimes getting the poem out helps relieve that, as I am sure most poets would agree.

One of the prompts was to write about a “type of person” which can mean anyone from a teacher, a nail-biter or a Type-A person. Any interpretation welcome. I am doing some research on hoarders and have had a slight obsession with this type of person for a few years now. Frankly, this is because I fear becoming one of them, as I sit at my desk piled with books, papers and bills in a house cluttered with a wide variety of clothes, toys and books (OK- I may be a book hoarder). I admit to having sentimental attachment to a few inanimate objects, and I am an obsessive recycler/reuser. I actually am related to borderline hoarders (only they call themselves “collectors”) and I have been helping my mother clean through years of collected stuff. So, naturally, hoarding is on my mind these days. I know that I am not *that bad* (yet) but I still get the cold sweats when I see some of those shows. So this was my rough draft poem on the subject:

HOARDER
It starts with the little things,
of course. Or maybe the big stuff
gets you first. Takes up room.
Then the smaller pieces add up,
Fill in spaces.
It’s not like you plan on it,
it’s just a fact. A part of life.
It makes sense.
You never know when you may
need the back of a pin, this magazine,
or one of those jelly jars.
Just the right size.
And you would never want anything
to go to waste.
That would throw you for a loop.
You’d never be able to get rid of
the image, never erase
gnawing, guilty thoughts:
plastic floating on glass, choking life,
taking over, never ending, leeching, trash.
All your fault.
At least you know it’s all here, somewhere,
safe. You can find it, if you need it.
It’s easier this way.
 

Well, obviously I did not follow through on the blogging resolution. I hate resolutions. I am seriously trying to decide if I should keep this going or if I waste valuable writing time by babbling away through my fingertips. Yes, I started this blog as an outlet for my NEED to write, get the words floating around my head out so I would not develop any more personalities. In turn, blogging introduced me to the wider world of writing available on this here Web. I have learned so much about writing and publishing, both traditionally and independently. I have also learned about my own writing, as in, what I want to write, how important writing is to my life, and what my shortcomings are.
Often, I think about “My Blog” as if it is a favorite old hangout, where I “used to go,” but which feels different when I occasionally visit now. Does that make sense? I admit that when I branched out and realized just how many people were blogging about the same or similar topics, I lost some confidence, or perhaps just the novelty wore off. I found myself comparing my blog with others, which are better written or “more popular” or funnier. It feels like high school again.
Is this whining? Or just the thoughts flowing out of me again? I want to be a better blogger, but I also want to be a professional writer, so I feel the need to focus more on that now. I am torn though, because I know that blogging stimulated my writing in the first place, and I know I do not want to completely give up.
I have started posting on tumblr, which makes it easy to pass on links without feeling the need to create an accompanying post. Also, you may have noticed that I am firmly addicted to Twitter. Did Twitter kill my blogging buzz? Maybe. It is a fantastic forum that allows us to “micro-blog” and find resources, and of course, socialize. (Though to snark for a moment: I think I liked it better before the brand names and MSM discovered its potential for PR and marketing. And who really trusts “social media experts” who have 50,000 followers but post the same links constantly? Not me.)
Anyhoo, this is just a check-in really. I am not quitting, but I am trying to let go of the nagging feeling that “I should be blogging” when I know I really should be WRITING and/or cleaning my damn house or any of a multitude of duties. I didn’t even plan on writing this post when I logged in today; it just sort of “flowed” out of me. Maybe My Blog is the outlet I need after all.
(Ironically, I was actually thinking of doing Poetic Aside’s Poem-A-Day challenge again which means I may post more in April *fingers crossed*).

Just thought I would pop in and visit. Though I have completely fallen off the blog wagon, I am making plans for my new year which include, um, blogging more. I am sure I said this last year too :) But seriously, I’m planning a regular schedule to try and keep focused. Recently, I have been letting the family duties and schedule take over my writing time. Wish me luck! Hope you guys are having a good holiday season and a safe, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Glaring isn’t it? It makes it look like I am slacking already but REALLY, it’s a reminder of last night’s NaNoNightmare.

As I said, I want to use this NaNo to really focus on getting in the habit of writing every day, which really means every night, for me. I can get in the flow and write a lot better when I do not have juvenile distractions and other duties to perform. I have eagerly looked forward to 9pm (aka: bedtime) every night. Last night, I was somehow waylaid and it was closer to 10 when I got back online. So, I used Write or Die which helps me do fast sprints. 2000 words in 90 mins was my goal and I made it, passed it with time to spare and was typing along when everything disappeared.

The whole computer was off. The screen was black, my headset was silent. I almost passed out. It was raining, and we do tend to get the power blown out sometimes, but no, the rest of the house was still electrified. So, trying not to panic (i.e. “cry”) I got on my hands and knees and checked every freaking plug and wire and yes, the main cord to the tower was wedged loose. But, I still thought all was lost. I  felt like a loser who had just lost over 2000 words and I was mentally kicking myself while watching the computer reboot.

I knew that if I had been on Scrivener, like I was supposed to be, the Autosave function would have saved me (*maybe). And that if I was already a more dedicated writer, writing daily would not be such an issue. I also knew that  it was not an enormous problem; I am still on track and can easily finish at this pace. I was going to chalk it up to Lesson Learned and just take the red mark. I restarted Firefox, planning to just post a sob story about the words that got away. So, I was truly grateful to see Dr. Wicked’s tab open with *My Words* still in that wicked box. :) Oh joy! I thanked the gods, declared my love for Dr. Wicked, and opened Scrivener. I Cut and Paste and Saved and Saved As and checked my word count and…

Seriously, then I could not find the chapters I had written the night before. Now, I was pissed. I like teh way I can organize and split up the document with Scrivener, but I thought somehow when I Split the entire text up, the new pages had been eaten.  I had seen them the night before, neatly filed, but they were gone. So I had the first chapter and what I had written on Write or Die. Fortunately, I did make backup copies, saving it in Rich Text and on open source software, on a flash drive, so I pieced it all back together and finally…

I made it back to the NaNOWriMo site to put in my update, waited…this week is definitely kicking their servers around…and the update saved– at 12:01 am! Seriously. And now, that red box just stares at me, taunting, mocking me. Let it stare. I know that I wrote, and I know that all of those obstacles were just tests, minor setbacks and that I met them all, kept trying, did not lose my shizzle, and I wrote. Tonight I will break 10K and I should be at 15K by Monday. I hope everyone else is having fun and remembering to BACK UP YOUR WORK!

Day One! Hope everyone is having fun so far. If you are participating in NaNoWriMo you are keenly aware of what today signifies. Of course, we are still coming down from a national sugar buzz (actually, I think today is National Eat Candy Day) but for many of us crazy folk, this past weekend/week/month has been all about preparing for “30 Days of Literary Abandon.” Last night, I was watching the time zones count down and I realized that I was somehow set to Pacific time. I wouldn’t have been able to update for 3 hours. Glad I caught it, though I still was on when the West Coast hit midnight. It was like NaNoNewYear’s! So we are all in now, and the fun is only beginning.

So, the good news is, I read over last night’s (this morn’s?) 2000 words and I still like them. I know that a lot of NaNoDieHards say I should not read back or proofread, but um, sorry. If I don’t feed the Inner Editor, she gets mean. I have set myself a daily 2000 word/day goal and I am determined to use NaNo to get into the very good habit of writing every day. I am still writing today, so I will already be ahead. We have to drive to Ohio for Thanksgiving and it would be very nice if I was past 50K by the 25th. Though I do love the rush of the final two day catch up. :)

I liked Nicole Humphrey’s idea to taper down the writing so you can end on Day 30 with only 1 Word. When we start NaNo we often have been holding back the writing flow, so it all comes out in a rush. Then we hit Week 2… Some folks write towards 100,000 words which is closer to an actual novel length. [BTW: 50K is pretty short for a novel unless it is middle-grade or some genre paperbacks.] I am not that ambitious this year. But I will win! :D

I am participating in the NaNoBlogger blog hop and will be visiting every single one of those blogs, at least once! My favorite part of NaNo is the connections we make. I can write alone anytime. So, I welcome visitors, writing buddies and cheerleaders! I am going to blog about NaNo, but not every day. I will be on Twitter for word sprints and pep chats.

I am also using the Beta version of Scrivener for Windows, so I need time to learn that program.  I studied their tutorial and demo last week, but did not write in it until last night. Before midnight, I made an outline, using their cool corkboard feature, and laid out the chapters as I envision them. Then I was ready for Chapter One. So far, I like the program. I have been hearing praises of Scrivener from writers who are Mac people for a while now. I was very excited when I heard they were going to have a Windows version available next year. If you want to test it out during NaNo they have a Beta download. All winners of NaNoWriMo will get 50% off the final version in January, which makes writing 50K worth it, imo. But using the Beta version is fun. I am fastidious about backing up, ever since a nasty incident with a college thesis paper. They want us to report bugs and I will be sending a note about the ‘spelling’ feature they have which is very quirky. I know, I know, I am not supposed to be editing…. It’s a sickness, really.

I leave you with a musical interlude. I love the many other creative projects WriMos produce and this was one of my favorite things last year. Write on, y’all!

I just had to share this link, a guest post on Adventures in Children’s Publishing, because I think it is exactly what all writers need to read. I know I did. I don’t feel much like a writer today, but the way I reacted to this brilliant pep-post tells a different story :) Go on, click it. It’s worth it :)

I also want to point out my nifty NaNoWriMo badges over yonder, especially the NaNoBloggers one. I will not be blogging every day, though I am determined to write every day (practice good habits and all that jazz). I will be using this linky thing, though, to connect any posts I make in November to the “Blog Hop” which has a huge list of other NaNoBloggers. It should be fun to check out others’ experiences, and as far as I am concerned that is the main point of NaNo: having fun. The writing too, of course.

I’m actually struggling with what to write this year. I have one of those problems that some people may roll their eyes at: too many ideas. I originally planned on using NaNo this year to try writing a new genre for me…Romance. Don’t snicker, because Romance is one of the greatest traditional forms of literature we have. In fact, most books seem to have some element of romance in them. The popular romances today sell more than any other form of book in our culture. I am not a fan of most formulaic romances, but I love a good historical fiction read (many of which are of course Romance), and have several favorite books which would be considered romance by definition. Besides, if it was good enough for Jane Austen, its good enough for me :)

So, I had this idea and it keeps growing in my head. I think it will be fun to write, and I want to expand my skills. I think that trying new genres is a great use of NaNoWriMo. Though I already have some dramatic points sneaking into my outline, I wanted to veer away from moody literary eco-novels and YA drama. I do have some of those on the list though :) I haven’t officially decided yet, and could end up sitting down on November 1st and flying through another story by the seat of my pants.

Now, don’t think that I am suggesting writing romance novels is any easier than writing any other form of book. In fact, I probably will suck at it (this will not  be erotica in any form. That would be embarrassing and stilted). Like I said, I want to practice, so I was thrilled to find out that Harlequin Books (which has romance written all over it-lol) is sponsoring “So You Think You Can Write” a week of writing workshops, blogs, critiques, etc to begin the month of NaNovember. I guess there is also chance at publication involved, but I won’t be going that far. However, I am sure to learn a thing or two which will improve my MC’s love life, as well as my own writing life. There’s also a hashtag for Twitter of course :)  #SYTYCW

Yes, November will be busy (along with all of the other life activities, natch!). I am excited about it though. Anyone else who is participating in NaNo is welcome to add me as a writing buddy. I think I can be a good one. And follow me @janflora on Twitter, because I will need chat breaks and love the word sprints. I wonder if anyone else is trying a whole new genre this year? Or has any advice on writing a cool-and-not-too-cheesy romance novel?

Water,

water everywhere

would be enough, you’d think.

We watch it flow,

throw it away

while some can’t get a drink.

 

Water, water

sates our life

and drenches us to death.

We play on water,

while others work

until it takes their breath.

 

 

 

Wasted water,

sculpted decor,

drained down the sink,

tarred in oil,

feathered trash,

while many need a drink.

 

 

 

{This post is just one of thousands dedicated today to Blog Action Day:Water}

 

I am writing this as a concerned parent. I am greatly concerned about the number of book challenges and out-right bans that occur every year in the United States. Concerned Parents are the greatest challengers to books in our country. Which is why concerned parents (and teachers, readers, librarians and average citizens, etc.) need to Speak Loudly against censorship and keep intellectual freedom strong in this, The Land of the Free.

Fortunately, we do live in a country which protects Freedom of Speech, so there are no books officially banned by our government. Not that they don’t try. But, authors are not put on house arrest, threatened with imprisonment and death, or banished from our country because of the words they have written. We truly are lucky. I wish I did not have to remind people that there are countries in which people are actually dying for the right to learn and read. Why would we want to threaten that right here?

I do understand why parents are concerned about what their children are reading, but I do not support the removal of books from a library, school system or bookstore. Of course, the obvious statement is, as above, if you don’t like it, then don’t read it. There are plenty of books available that you will like. But what about the required reading lists at school, which is what has led to the recent controversy in Missouri over SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson and in other states for other books? Should they be allowed to be challenged? If a teacher deems a book worthy of educational analysis shouldn’t students have them available to be read? If peers are passing around a book or discussing it because of a topic that is relevant to their lives, should parents or teachers stop them? I am not talking about passing around a Penthouse in the locker room, which-guess what-happens anyway. I am talking about books for teens, about teens and about themes and subjects which are important to teens. Not to mention that the books assigned do have educational value to them including literary structure and cultural information. Contemporary novels deserve to be read and studied just as much as books deemed “classics” which often equates to “old” in the minds of the young.

When I met my son’s freshman English teacher, she showed us copies of the books that they would be reading. I was thrilled that SPEAK was one of them. I read it earlier in the summer and watched the Lifetime film based on it (starring a then-unknown Kristen Stewart). I cried, I laughed, I learned. It has all of the good stuff a book should have. Plus, it had the most redeeming factor, in my opinion, of being accessible to the modern teen. If it is new to you, then to summarize: a freshman girl experiences date-rape and plunges into a terrifying depression in which she essentially experiences Selective Mutism. The absolutely most important lesson that readers can get from this is to NOT be afraid to talk about problems, to use their voice and to tell someone when they are violated or in danger and need help. A ban of this specific book will teach the exact opposite.

I think the case with SPEAK has proven that when you tell a reader that they cannot or should not read a book, then their curiosity is going to be greater than ever and book sales will rise. Dr. Scroggins severely underestimated both the power of the Pen and of the Web. In this Internet era, there are more ways to get your eyes on a book than ever. Even if he achieves his goal (and apparently Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-5 did get cut after his complaints) he has managed to promote these books more than he will ever be able to hide them. Authors, teachers and readers around the world have rallied to support these books and others. But that is the result of a challenge/ban. What leads to the challenge is what bothers me the most. The desire to limit information, to stop people from reading and learning, is appalling. This is what dictators do, this is what terrorists hope to accomplish. We cannot attack our own Constitutional freedoms by fighting amongst ourselves. When adults bicker over books, children do not learn how to rationally debate. When governors suggest books be removed from a public library, then we are in serious trouble. When anyone is told that they cannot read any book, then we face more limitations on our freedom.

When I signed up to write about my favorite banned book over at @thmafi’s blog I was stumped. Which one to choose!?! There are simply so many! The obvious choice was the HARRY POTTER series, which as we know, I heart, and which tops both the list of best selling books for the past decade and the ALA’s list of most challenged books. But that’s too obvious. Basically, if people have not figured out yet that it is not a Satanic diatribe, well, God help them *roll eyes*

Of course, there are (sadly) many other fabulous books to write about. In its 50th year of publication, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is  a good example. It is often chosen as a classic Must-Read, and it has faced challenges since the beginning. But so have  a lot of others that I have enjoyed over the years: Gatsby, Catcher, Color Purple, GWTW, Rebecca,  Huck Finn (Twain’s response to Denver’s ban of his book is as amusing as most of his work :) ) and yes, Winnie-the Pooh.

Meanwhile, there are the books that make one say “WTH” ? the Dictionary!?! Captain Underpants? What about Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (which I personally have avoided reading over and over and over for the past year…parents know what I’m sayin’) but which serves as an example of the ignorance that surrounds book banning. It was banned in Texas because the school board did not A.) Do their freaking research B.) Bother to read the book and C.) Think that it is possible for 2 men to have the same name, i.e. “Bill Martin”. Funnily enough, the author of this and dozens of other picture books is a Junior, so obviously there is more than one.

I often wonder if people who challenge books actually read them first. Or if they just want to promote their own agenda. Or if they really care about Freedom of Speech. There was a local news story about a woman who was challenging a book on a school’s Recommended Summer Reading List. NOT required, not even (most likely) expected. Just suggestions of books to choose from if a parent should decide to take their child to a library over the summer. Her beef was the junior picture book version of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH by You-Know-Who. Now, I get that some people still think science and climate change are not real. Whatev. But I still think she just wanted to get on TV and try to push her (completely unsubstantiated) opinion.  If it is not required reading, then do not read it. Duh. Rant over.

So, I narrowed it down to Books I Have Read and Books Under Challenge Now. Yes, there have been a lot of books challenged and banned in the past. Some of them are on the list every year and are familiar to many readers. I am more concerned with the newer books that are being challenged and banned. Most of these are Young Adult books that are challenged for sexual references.

I think that to most young readers (and let’s face it–they are the citizens whose intellectual rights are challenged the most) books are an important source and outlet for information. I admit, I read books that my parents would not have approved. I also read books that they did approve and bought for me. I generally liked most of them. But part of growing, learning and becoming a functioning adult is  practicing critical thinking and developing your own mind. I would not want to keep my children from having all available resources or from pursuing their own happiness.

Young adults are going to learn about sex one way or another. If parents have not learned how to discuss it with them, if teachers are not able to teach non-abstinence facts, then teens will still learn about It. I would prefer the new-found knowledge be from a book, rather than from television or the Web. And I would rather their learning be done critically, showing all facets and points of view as most books do, especially books published as Kid Lit, instead of physically through clumsy trial-and-error which may lead to STDs, teen pregnancy and/or hours of crying into one’s pillow. (Or worse! Teen suicide is a bigger problem in this land than teen sex. There. I said it!) Also, as a writer who can only hope that one day she makes it to a Banned Books list, I want kids to read and I know that they are far more likely to read a book they are interested in, rather than an assigned book chosen by an adult. Personally, I think it is amazing and awesome that there are SOOO many books being published in the children and young adult market. End of the Book, pshaw!

So, I pondered it, read lists, looked on my own highly controversial bookshelves and I went to the best place to learn about books: The Library. One of the most beautiful facts of our country’s freedoms: we get free books. I spend a lot of time at the library and have a good dialogue with my librarians. The conversation we had about banned books (as she set up their display) was heartening. I learned that only one book has been challenged (in her knowledge) in our  400-year old, smallish, right-leaning county: AND TANGO MAKES THREE. {Follow the link for a post about that children’s picture book from the fabulous Booklady’s Blog.} The saddest thing about that challenge is it is NON-fiction. People want to ban facts. Grrr…

Finally, I opened the library’s print-out of this year’s Banned Books Week campaign and saw THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie listed first. And I learned that it was banned, removed by a school board in Missouri this year and previously in Oregon among other challenges. I read this book, primarily because it was a National Book Award winner and one of the top recommended books for teen boys. I like sharing books with my son, ever since he was in utero. I read it, laughed, cried, laughed A LOT more and even learned a little (granted, I had some previous knowledge of the subject matter). Then I gave it to him and said “You have to read this” which was not an order, but as he knew, just a great suggestion.

The main reasons cited for banning TATDOAPTI are language, substance use, and sexual situations. I admit, I was keenly aware of giving my son a book that discussed masturbation, but I had a feeling he already knew about that. But sex, drugs and rock n’ roll aside, this book depicts a reality that many teens in this country experience daily. At the same time, it also depicts one that many people are not aware of or do not understand. I wanted my brilliant son to appreciate his education and just how good he’s got it.

The main character experiences obstacles, discouragement, and a whole lot of stress in order to pursue his education. Since birth, he had physical challenges, which required brain surgery. He is awkward and ridiculed and also brilliant and hilarious. His story is about making the most of what you can in your life no matter what problems you face. He actually walks miles to get to a school that can give him a better education. Alexie throws light on the difference between reservation schools and US public schools. He also details a bright boy’s struggle to find his place in two societies, neither of which fully accepts him. A student speaking out in support of the book said at the Stockton County, MO school board meeting

This book in a nutshell is my hope. It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.

and she was completely ignored. The vote was 7-0 to ban it. I pray that does not cause her to lose hope. She and her peers need to know that their experiences and feelings matter, too. When young people are constantly told that their opinions and beliefs do not count, they begin to believe it.

Junior, the MC and narrator of “Absolutely True Diary” , is one of those teens and his story is worth reading. Yes, teens cuss, are exposed to substances, and think about sex too much. But they also try to find their talents, develop their abilities and dream of their futures. Why would we want to censor that?

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