Mondays on this blog will be given over to musings on being: a writer (for children), a voracious reader, an MFA student, an expat in New York, a nature advocate, part of the LGBTQ community, a lifelong wanderer, an obsessive observer of human nature, and one who jives to the java bean and the fermentation-flirtation of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape!
While I shall most definitely be writing a post on, ‘Why One Should Read Outside One’s Genre,’ today I espouse the importance as writers of reading the themes, content, forms and genre in which we have rooted our own manuscript. You need to know how your book compares with the competition, and how it is different. Reading your genre is about staying current as an author, just as a teacher or doctor might. Agents and publishers will expect this of you, and you should certainly know on which shelf in a (Indie) bookstore a reader should be able to find your book!
I like to not only read in my genre, but also books that have focused on some of the big themes and subject matter in my story; maybe betrayal, or teenage pregnancy, maybe set in other cultures, or in slang…. You might read to be inspired by form and style. Maybe you are seeking to write in a more literary style, then you could perhaps read Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTER GIRLS. Since meeting and reading most of the works of author, Ellen Hopkins, I have been fascinated by the form of novels written in verse, and have been reading broadly in this form. I am thrilled that we have on the faculty of the Stony Brook MFA program, Patty McCormick, whose novel in verse, SOLD, has so much of what I want to explore in my own writing.
In which genre are you writing? And/or what theme(s) are you exploring, and what recommendation do you, therefore, have for us? Let me kick off, and let me say that while my novel is at present in prose, I am drawn to a more poetic vehicle for the story.
Genre: Contemporary YA fiction (edgy) Form: narrative prose Themes: Estrangement, abusive parental relationships and/or LGBTQ characters and bullying
SMOKE by NYT best selling author, Ellen Hopkins and published by Simon and Schuster. I was lucky to read an ARC of this novel in verse, which is released tomorrow, September, 10th 2013. I loved BURN and was not disappointed with this sequel. SMOKE addresses big themes – courage and survival, abuse, hypocrisy and silence in religious communities (LDS), gay bullying, neglect, love… the writing is quick and sparse and visually meaningful. All the characters are 3+ dimensional. If you have never read a novel in verse, I highly recommend any of Hopkin’s novels. SMOKE is also included in this recent list of Top Ten YA Releases in Sept 2013.
Okay, I have not yet read FREAKBOY, a YA novel in verse by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, which is going to be published on October 22nd, 2013, by Farrar, Strauss and Geroux, but I have discussed the book with the author and am a huge fan of her writing and very happy to see a book embracing these themes. I am convinced this will be a book with significant ripples in the YA book community. Just this week it received a starred review –“*”This gutsy, tripartite poem explores a wider variety of identities—cis-, trans-, genderqueer—than a simple transgender storyline, making it stand out.“ — Kirkus Review, starred review.
You can buy it now, here.
On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming gay bar by two young men pretending to be gay. Matthew was savagely beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die. October Mourning, is the author’s deep personal response to the events of that tragic day. It is a novel in verse, but quite different from the previous two as Newman creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to and the girlfriends of the murderers. This is a heartbreaking series of sixty-eight poems in several different poetic forms offering the reader an enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.
Your turn! Please add your recommendations in the comments below.