Does the age of an author matter when writing YA fiction?

27 July 2015

From The Guardian:

I saw several really young writers at the Young Adult Literature Convention (Yalc) who seem to know just what their readers are feeling. Does the age of an author matter when writing YA fiction?

The appearance of so many young authors whose books are connecting so brilliantly with YA readers was a hugely successful hallmark of Yalc (Young Adult Literature Convention, held last weekend in London.

But, before the older writers are overlooked prematurely it is worth remembering, that Yalc was itself the brain child of Malorie Blackman as one of her projects during her time as the UK’s children’s laureate. Malorie Blackman is neither a new author nor a particularly young one but nonetheless she has written many outstanding YA novels including the best-selling Noughts and Crosses sequence of novels (now published as a graphic novel) and Boys Don’t Cry, a story of teen parents that is as understanding of the modern pressures on teens as anything else available.

Like many others who have been writing for this age group, Malorie Blackman, left her own teen experiences behind a longish time ago but it doesn’t stop her understanding the overwhelming emotions of adolescence and their bravery in standing up for themselves and others when they see unfair things happening.

YA fiction has been around for a long time. Beverly Cleary’s Fifteen, published in the US in 1956 and in the UK in 1962 is often cited as the first book for teenagers because it was one of the launch titles for the Peacock series that Penguin launched for this new market of readers. Impossibly tame for today’s readers in terms of the details, it was the only book on the list that was about contemporary adolescence and so included a version of the feelings, tensions and teenager/parent relationship that were a precursor to today’s YA fiction.

. . . .

Most recently, John Green’s runaway success The Fault in Our Stars has bowled over YA readers – and readers of all other ages too. John Green is young but his adolescent years are well behind him.

. . . .

Nonetheless, as the young Yalc authors showed, YA is gaining an exciting new dimension from upcoming very young writers. Among them are Samantha Shannon who signed a deal for her seven book series set in a dystopian world shot through with the supernatural which begins with The Bone Season when she was still a student and Helena Coggan who was even younger (15) and still at school when her first novel The Catalyst, also a dystopian fantasy, was published earlier this year.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

The most banned and challenged books of 2014

23 July 2015

From The Los Angeles Times:

A memoir by a sexual assault survivor, a science fiction comic book and a children’s book about gay penguins were among the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books in the United States last year, according to the American Library Assn. (ALA).

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom today released its annual “Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books,” based on over 300 reports of community members attempting to have literature removed from libraries and school curricula. The organization notes that “attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned.”

Four of the books on the list are by writers of color: “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison and “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Seven of the 10 books were challenged because they were “sexually explicit.” Among those books are two that deal with child sexual assault: Morrison’s novel “The Bluest Eye” and “A Stolen Life,” a memoir by Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped, raped and held prisoner for 18 years by a Mendocino couple.

. . . .

The top 10 most banned and challenged books of 2014:

1. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

. . . .

4. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Tim for the tip.

Why Are There So Many Young Adult Writers On The Top-Earning Authors List?

23 July 2015

From Forbes:

A quarter of the 16 writers on this year’s Top-Earning Authors pen Young Adult fiction; two are in the top five. That’s a stunning ratio, considering the list has long been dominated by crime, thriller and romance stalwarts such as Stephen King, Danielle Steel and James Patterson.

Patterson remains publishing’s richest penman, earning an estimated $89 million between June 2014 and June 2015. Hot on his heels is “The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green, who banked $26 million in that time frame. Green pocketed a little more than Veronica Roth, who earned $25 million to rank third.

Both Green and Roth were newcomers to the Top-Earning Authors ranking in 2014. Green’s income leaped $17 million on last year’s $9 million paycheck, while Roth’s earnings increased $8 million. All told, Young Adult (YA) authors pocketed a combined $83 million this year, up 53% from the $54 million haul top-earning YA authors recorded in 2014.

So how are YA authors making so much cash? It’s thanks largely to Hollywood.

“When a great book finds a new life on the big screen, it drives people who have never discovered them from movies to the books,”  explained Ellie Berger, president of Trade Publishing at Scholastic, the house responsible for Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series. According to Berger, publishers can see more than a 10% lift in book sales around the time a movie version is released. “Once the movie comes and goes, we are still able to sell strongly as we do now with the Hunger Games,” Berger said earlier this year.

Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The Original Ghostwriter Behind Nancy Drew Was One of The Most Interesting YA Writers of All Time

15 July 2015

From Slate:

Nancy Drew—the eternally teenaged detective who has appeared in hundreds of books since The Secret of the Old Clock was published in 1930—recently turned 85. Over the years, dozens of authors have penned the sleuth’s adventures under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, and she has been the subject of TV series, movies,graphic novels—even a line of video games. Her influence is so wide that not onebut three Supreme Court justices have cited her as a childhood hero. It’s no wonder then that the 85th anniversary milestone stirred up nostalgic media coverage and has been celebrated with conventions as far-flung as Iowa, Ohio, and New Jersey.

But last week marked another, quieter anniversary for Nancy Drew: what would have been the 110th birthday of Mildred “Millie” Wirt Benson, the first author ever to write under the name “Carolyn Keene.” Despite having produced numerous children’s books under a variety of names, Benson herself is not widely known—which is unfortunate, because as a gutsy journalist, aviator, and feminist (though she didn’t like to call herself one), she was one of the most interesting YA writers of all time.

Benson ghost-wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the publisher also behind The Hardy Boys and The Bobbsey Twins. She became involved with the series after answering a trade ad placed by the Syndicate’s founder, Edward Stratemeyer. In Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak examines the contributions Benson made to the now-iconic character. “She gave Nancy many of the qualities we remember so fondly and fiercely, like her determination, her intelligence, her self-reliance and her athleticism,” Rehak told Slate in an email. “Stratemeyer hired Mildred because he wanted someone who could infuse Nancy with these things, and he could tell Mildred was a go-getter from the moment she answered his ad.”

. . . .

Just 25 years old when the first was published, Benson, then Mildred A. Wirt, was also a tenacious reporter, for the now-defunct Toledo Times, and later for the Toledo Blade. She worked there, despite her failing eyesight and a tendency to fall asleep at her desk, until her death in 2002, aged 96, and was at work on the day she died. She outlived both her journalist husbands, first AP reporter Asa Wirt, then her Toledo Times editor George Benson.

Even in the earliest days of her journalism career, Benson was tenacious. “In the ’40s, when she started working at the Toledo Times, she was a court reporter. She got the job because a lot of men went off to war, and they were starting to hire women,” said Fisher. When female staffers were told that when the men returned, the women would likely be out of a job, Benson only worked harder, and was competitive with her male colleagues. In her determination to get a story, she became notorious for parking herself outside councilmen’s office doors. One such councilman was so desperate to avoid talking to her, the story goes, that he climbed out his office window rather than face her questions.

. . . .

Some of Benson’s greatest adventures happened while she was in her 50s and 60s. She made numerous trips to Central America, including the Yucatán Peninsula in the 1960s, traversing the jungle in a Jeep, canoeing down rivers, visiting Mayan sites, and witnessing archaeological excavations. She had been an active swimmer since her college years, and who would often take a dive at the Toledo Club before going to work at the Blade. She saw Haley’s Comet twice in her lifetime: first as a child in 1910, and then again in 1986.

Benson remained largely unknown outside her circle until she testified during a 1980 trial for a case involving Nancy Drew publishers—the first public acknowledgement of her involvement with the series. Simon & Schuster and Grosset & Dunlap later officially recognized her authorship of Books 1 through 7, 11 through 25, and 30, in 1994. Benson subsequently became a legend for Nancy Drew fans.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Jodi Picoult On Her New Book, Writing YA, and Feuding With Jonathan Franzen

24 May 2015

From Bustle:

With 23 books by Jodi Picoult in print, fans of the author have a pretty good idea of what to expect from her novels: a dark subject — say cancer or domestic abuse; plenty of shocking twists and turns; and a conclusion that, while satisfying, may not be the happy ending of readers’ dreams. Picoult can write a gripping thriller or an emotional drama for sure, but as for a sweet, happy story with a fairytale ending? No way.

Yet in 2012, the author decided to do just that, writing the YA, fantasy-based Between the Lines alongside her daughter, Samantha van Leer.

. . . .

Turns out that taking a break from her usual dark dramas works well for Picoult. Both Between the Lines and Off the Page are charming stories bound to please teen readers. It wouldn’t be surprising if the duo continued their work together and made YA a career focus — yet according to the author, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.

“Part of the real joy of writing YA is doing it with Sammy. I have a blast working with her,” Picoult says. “But I don’t know that I would’ve [written YA] without her.”

. . . .

“All times that I’ve been working with Sammy, I’ve always been in the middle of an adult book as well. When I wrote Between the Lines, I was switching back and forth between writing a fairytale and writing about the Holocaust — I don’t think you can get more diametric.”

Link to the rest at Bustle and thanks to HN for the tip.

Her Stinging Critiques Propel Young Adult Best Sellers

13 April 2015

From The New York Times:

John Green still vividly recalls the opening line of a stinging critique that his editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, delivered after reading an early draft of his novel “The Fault in Our Stars.”

“The first sentence was, ‘I really enjoyed reading the first draft of this promising and ambitious novel,’ and the rest was 20 pages of her tearing it apart,” Mr. Green said. “Her editorial letters are famous for their ability to make you cry and feel anxious. They’re very long, very detailed and very intimidating.”

One of her more memorable barbs described an overwrought climactic scene as reading “like bad John Green fan fiction,” Mr. Green recalled. He changed the ending.

Mr. Green didn’t suffer an ego bashing in vain, at least. In its revised and polished final form, “The Fault in Our Stars,” a novel about two teenagers with cancer who fall in love, became a monster hit.

. . . .

In the cosseted world of children’s book publishing, getting an editorial letter from Ms. Strauss-Gabel, the publisher of Dutton Children’s Books, is the literary equivalent of winning a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It virtually guarantees critical or commercial success, and often brings both.

She doesn’t hand out many of them. “I am naturally exceedingly picky,” she said. “If I’m not in love with someone’s writing at the sentence level, then I’m not going to sign up the book.”

Her knack for spotting and developing talent is apparent on this week’s New York Times young adult best-seller list, where novels that she edited hold five of the top 10 spots. She has edited 22 New York Times best sellers.

. . . .

Over the last decade or so, as publishers have been battered by sagging print sales, shrinking retail space and e-book pricing wars, children’s books have become one of the industry’s last bastions of sustained growth. Eight of the top 10 best-selling print books were children’s and young adult titles, with Bill O’Reilly and Gillian Flynn standing out as the anomalous authors of adult books. In 2014, revenue from young adult and children’s books rose by 21 percent over the previous year, while adult fiction and nonfiction fell by 1.4 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.

Ms. Strauss-Gabel’s unconventional taste and eye for idiosyncratic literary voices have helped her identify and build up some of young adult fiction’s biggest breakout stars.

In addition to Mr. Green’s books, which have more than 30 million copies in print worldwide, she’s shepherded best sellers like Ally Condie’s “Matched” series, which has 3.3 million copies in print in North America. She has shaped the careers of emerging stars like Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins and Andrew Smith, whose surreal novel, “Grasshopper Jungle,” won comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut.

. . . .

 In its latest financial earnings report, Penguin Random House, which operates nearly 250 imprints globally, cited “The Fault in Our Stars” as the company’s biggest hit last year, and said that “major best sellers, especially in the field of children’s books” had helped produce a 25 percent increase in revenue in 2014.

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

The Very Best of #VeryRealisticYA

5 April 2015

From BookRiot:

This past weekend, at a little after 5 P.M. on Saturday night, John Hansen started musing about realistic YA characters. Frustrated with homework, he was wondering how YA characters out saving the world manage to even find the time. After suggesting his followers start tweeting out their own #VeryRealisticYA characters and stories, things quickly took off.

Authors like Scott Westerfield, The Bloggess, Zoraida Córdova, Saladin Ahmed,Kody Keplinger, Michelle Krys, and even our own Andrew Shaffer joined in the fun, while John left his trending hashtag to go work on an English paper. Which, as he said,was the truest example of #VeryRealisticYA.

Here are some of the best of the best from that hashtag. Enjoy!

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Top 10 twins in children’s books

29 March 2015

From The Guardian:

In the post-apocalyptic world of my novel The Fire Sermon, all humans are born as twins. However, the twins share a fatal bond: when one twin dies, so does the other.

Literature has long been fascinated by twins, whose uncanny appeal lies in the fact that they’re simultaneously alike and different. Older readers can look forward to the nuanced (and sometimes twisted) take on twins in Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and Ian McEwan’s Atonement, among others. But for the younger reader, here are 10 of the best twins to enjoy.

1. Sam and Eric, in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies

The twins in Golding’s classic can’t be told apart – not even by Piggy, the only boy who really tries. They’re so identical that the joint nickname that Jack gives them, “Samneric”, sticks. These twins have none of the heroism of Ralph or Piggy, or the charismatic evil of Jack or Roger – instead, they’re the ordinary, well-intentioned bystanders who become complicit in awful crimes. By the end, the question is not whether we can tell Sam and Eric apart, but whether we can distinguish Samneric from ourselves.

. . . .

7. Fred and George Weasley, in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series

If being identical twins didn’t already present enough mischief-making potential, being identical twins in a school of magic takes the chaos to another level. Fred and George, partners in mischief, make the most of it all, with identity swaps and magical pranks. Their inseparable nature only makes (spoiler ahead!) their ultimate separation more poignant.

8. Claude and Eustace Wooster, in PG Wodehouse’s The Inimitable Jeeves

Claude and Eustace are the literary precursors of Rowling’s Weasley twins. They create chaos at every turn, and inevitably drag with them their hapless cousin, Bertie Wooster. Even when Claude and Eustace are supposed to be studying in the countryside, they do a sideline in taking bets on the sermon times of the local clergy. Usually partners in crime, their mistake is to compete for the love of the same woman, a division that Bertie’s brilliant butler, Jeeves, is able to exploit in order to outwit them once and for all.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Janet for the tip.

‘Insurgent’ And Why Young Adult Novels Make Box Office Hits

28 March 2015

From Forbes:

The second installment of Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, grabbed $52.3 million in its opening weekend at the U.S. boxoffice, just shy of Divergent’s $54.6 million debut last year. Clocking $47 million worldwide, Insurgent brings the teen action franchise’s total earnings to a plump $388 million so far, with two movies still to come.

Roth, who earned an estimated $17 million last year selling some 7 million books, is but one of many ink spillers whose literary successes have translated into box office hits. Nearly a quarter of the 200 top-grossing films worldwide tallied by Box Office Mojo have been directly adapted from books, excluding children’s tales, comic book or picture book translations.  Of those 48 titles, 16 started as Young Adult novels and earned a collective $13.4 billion at the box office.

Young Adult (YA) fiction – a genre usually designed for readers 12 and up – has become a global powerhouse that reaps dollars from page turners and popcorn crunchers alike.

“These books already have great source material and a die-hard fan base,” said Jodi Reamer, a senior book agent at Writers House who worked with Twilight‘s Stephenie Meyer and The Fault in Our Stars‘ John Green. She says a novel’s built-in audience means YA adaptations are a shoo-in for studios – and profit makers for publishers.

“At most, a publisher is going to spend a million [dollars] on marketing and promotion, but a studio at the very least will spend a million, so there will be a huge audience discovering the books and driving sales,” Reamer explained.

She would know: Twilight‘s vampire love saga notched a total of $3.34 billion at the global box office from its five installments, propelling Meyer to shift over 116 million copies of the series.

Link to the rest at Forbes

A haunting YouTube series is about to become the hottest new YA book

25 March 2015

From The Daily Dot:

You move to a new town, to a spooky new house. You hear noises and see unexplainable things, but your mom, your only ally, doesn’t believe you and starts acting strange herself. What do you do?

That’s the premise of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One, a new paranormal YA novel that has YouTube roots. It all began as a shared idea between then-16-year-old Paige McKenzie; her mother, Mercedes Rose; and their business partner Nick Hagen, who had done some YouTube research to find the best topic to cover.

. . . .

“On YouTube, the number-two-searched thing was ‘ghost.’ ‘Lil Wayne’ was number one. All the ghost channels at the time were all 30-year-old men, or 40-year-old men. [Nick had] worked with my mom previously on another paranormal-type project. We kind of got together and hashed out a general process.”

They came up with the idea of telling the story of a teen girl experiencing hauntings, helmed by McKenzie as the face and voice behind Sunshine.

“It was weird,” McKenzie explained. “We put up three or four videos, and then went ‘OK, let’s see what happens.’ Our first 5 million views were totally organic.

. . . .

McKenzie was a total YouTube newbie when the channel launched in 2010, but she quickly adapted and learned what it takes to be a digital video success.

“Between the three of us, we had eight or nine hours of watching YouTube,” she laughed. “I don’t know what we were thinking, but it worked! I kind of want to do a little bit of everything. Sunshine has been an eye-opener if nothing else. It’s really great to see I can do other stuff. I can act, but also I do all the camera work. I do the editing; I’m a director. It’s fun to put on different hats. Now with the author business, I have a lot of things I have the potential to do someday if I wanted to.”

That’s right, 20-year-old McKenzie is also the voice behind the Sunshine Girlbooks, with the help of a coauthor. For her, collaboration seems natural. What doesn’t is the fact that with the written word, she can’t immediately get feedback from her tens of thousands of digital fans.

“The main difference is you could just film something and put [finished videos] up on YouTube and get immediate response,” she said. “With a book, I know the editor says she liked this, but it’s not immediate response. That’s been weird.”

. . . .

Sunshine Girl does hit a spot that falls outside the current trends of young adult literature. It’s not postapocalyptic, and it’s not complete realism either. It’s somewhere in between. Yes, there’s some romance in the story, but without giving too much away, even the romantic elements play into the paranormal worry that pervades the book. The mystery is far more important that a girl wondering about her first kiss.

Link to the rest at The Daily Dot and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Here’s a link to The Haunting of Sunshine Girl: Book One

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