Monday, October 31, 2011

Girlfriends Rule, Boyfriends Drool…right?

Friendship continues to inspire me today just as much as it did when I was younger, and I know it shapes everything I write.  Mostly because I think it’s that important! 
I agree with Melissa that teens today have it so much better when it comes to reading material.  I love the fact that they don’t have to read up or read down but can find any book in their age range that fits a need.
YA does dominate the bookshelves.  But what I wish teen girls today had are books that encourage real friendships—deep friendships that would never end in a figurative knife in the back. 
I have to admit that I’ve always been jealous of the boy friendships depicted in movies and books.  Look at The Outsiders.

“We’re all we have left. We ought to be able to stick together against everything. If we don’t have each other, we don’t have anything.” 

Even though the story doesn’t have a complete happily-ever-after ending, I was so touched and moved by those friendships.  And Stand By Me.  Same thing.  All that fist bumping and having each other’s backs?  Jealous once again. 

"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve."

Then I realized my jealousy was because there aren’t that many girl movies out there like that. We have Mean Girls.  We have Gossip Girl.  The Clique.  We have a bunch of movies and shows where girls stab each other in the back every other minute while pretending to be the best of friends.  Don’t girls get sick of seeing that?  Aren’t they better than that?  Don’t they deserve the movies where girls see each other through the hard times together?      
That idea is what inspires me to write YA books where there are strong friendships among girls. 
I remember my grandmother telling me that boys would come and go, but friendships are the relationships that last.  And she was so right.  I hated when friends would ditch you on the weekend at the last minute because a guy entered the picture.  I never did that.  I was more likely to ditch the guy if a friend invited me for a sleepover.  Because I remembered those words, and I took them to heart. 
Girls today have so many possibilities.  They’re endless.  They live in a world where women can become anything they aspire to be—including President.  They live in a world where they can make as much, or even more, than men.  Yet despite the advances made for the feminism movement, we’ve still not taught our daughters the true value of friendship.  That it’s the one thing that will see them through tough times—through heartbreaks, through family troubles, through basic life issues.

You take the good, you take the bad…

 Like the Facts of Life.  Remember that one?  Maybe I’m dating myself here, but I sure do.  There was some type of lesson to be learned during the show, and it was clear.  It’s not that I expect my daughters or teen girls to get a morality lesson in every show they watch, but, come on!  Give them something more!  I see bratty girls being catty, talking on their cell phones and acting…well, a bit…let’s face it… bitchy
Recently, I was talking to a friend who made me feel very sad when she admitted that she thinks these shows are completely realistic—that girls are “just like that.”  I wonder how it works.  Do girls stab each other in the back and act bitchy because that’s just the way we grow up or are the more popular programs showcasing this kind of behavior and they think it’s the right way for girls to act to each other? 
Walnut Grove’s resident “Mean Girl”
Back when I watched television shows, Nellie Oleson in Walnut Grove was about the meanest girl you could possibly imagine, and everyone loved to hate her.  But the difference back then was that the viewers knew they were supposed to hate her.  She was mean!  She was snobby!  She looked down her nose at Laura’s little house on the prairie.  She treated Laura Ingalls like crap!  Nowadays, so many characters act in a similar way, and that’s “just the way girls are.”  I don’t believe it!  And neither should teen girls.  Being mean and snobby are NOT good characteristics.  And they shouldn’t look up to girls who act like that—whether there’s canned laughter in the background of the show or not.  It’s still not funny to be mean—no matter what.
What movies, sitcoms and/or books do you think shows girls in a group of friends where they all have each other’s backs and help each other through difficult times?  I remember feeling like this was reflected at the slumber party in Grease—a bunch of girls getting together, bonding over girlie stuff until I realized they were bonding by making fun of Sandy while she was sick in the bathroom after trying desperately to fit in. 
“Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee!”
I love to write books where there are strong female friendships because I think that’s a major area overlooked in YA.  I definitely believe in girl power and true friendships, but girls shouldn't have to search for them.  They should just be there. 
Besides Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girl Series, can anyone think of books that have a group of girls who are friends that don’t stab each other in the back every other chapter?  Or in the case of television, every single show?  Where are the positive friendship models? 

What was your favorite show, movie or book about girls being stronger together than by themselves? And if you have to think hard to find a couple, what does that say?
Here’s to girls!  Because if we can harness all that emotion, all that love and all that loyalty and give it to our friends…watch out!  Because girls really will rule the world.  Then the boys can drool.  J
"Men kick friendship around like a football, but it doesn't seem to crack. Women treat it like glass and it goes to pieces."
                                                          - Anne Morrow Lindbergh


~Kim

Monday, October 24, 2011

Following the Yellow Brick Road


Continuing the theme of what influenced our writing from childhood, I’d like to make a confession: I am, and always have been, a 100% certified head-in-the-clouds Dreamer. Just ask my Dad. But how did I get this way? Are some people born with the propensity to believe idealistic notions? Or did we find our rose-colored glasses somewhere on that proverbial yellow brick road of life? I would propose the stories we subscribe to as a child, greatly influence who we become and what we write.  

Like many of you, my childhood was less than ideal. So, stories that swept me away to a different time and place became somewhat of an obsession. First, it was the Disney Fairytales
 
My Royal Hottie
Every one of those princesses overcame evil step-parents, wicked queens and manipulative sea monsters with courage and aplomb to find their Happily Ever After and win the heart of their chosen royal hottie—with not so much as a hair out of place!

I didn't think that was too much to ask from life.

It’s no surprise that from the time I could dress myself, I was running around in princess dresses and tiaras. Some may have seen this and thought, “What a cute little thing,” but in my mind, I was fighting dragons.
 
When I was a little older, my attention turned to stories of escapism: THE WIZARD OF OZ, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, and THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. I devoured the films, and locked myself in my room to comb through the books searching for clues to how I might find these enchanted lands.

But all those hours of research, of wishing and praying to fly over the rainbow, left me feeling defeated and alone. Every one of those characters ended up right back where they started, anyway. My rose-colored glasses began to grow dim.

That’s when I began to create my own stories…for my Barbie dolls. They were epic tales that would take days, and multiple set and wardrobe changes, to act out. The Barbie townhouse became everything from a witch’s lair to a secret spy headquarters. My room, draped with colorful fabrics and Barbie shoes, transformed into whatever world I could dream up.

I kept reading, of course. Filling my ravenous hunger for stories with S.E. Hinton, Judy Blume, and any novel I could smuggle off my mom’s bookshelf. Eventually the princess dresses and Barbie dolls were packed away, but I never stopped believing in my heart that who I could become was only limited by my imagination.

So, did I find a utopian land or grow up to be a warrior princess?

No, my darlings, but I do write about them.  J

Now it’s your turn! What stories did you subscribe to as a child that shape who you’ve become and what you write?

Lorie

Sunday, October 16, 2011

“Get away from her you (bleep)”


Or, wait. Are we allowed to say “bitch” on this blog? Probably. But seems wrong somehow in a title – which, in actuality, hints at the root of my problem. Fundamentally, I’m timid. I not only don’t like confrontation, I actively avoid it. In the years between high school and today, I’ve acquired enough inner strength (confidence? Chutzpah?) to be able to stand up for myself, my family, my friends. That ability…it was a long time coming.

So now we do that thing where we roll back the mythical hands of time and the scenery blurs and some wacky creepy music plays and then the scene is set. I am younger by an unnamable amount of years, and I sit in the never-ending hell of high school. (I’m not going to tell you what my uniform looks like. Nothing I could say would make you understand how hideous that polyester monstrosity was.) It’s only homeroom, so there’s a whole day of horror looming on the horizon. Two rows over, my best friend has her head bent over a notebook, but she looks up as THEY walk up to her and surround her desk.

You know these girls. They’re in every high school. Every middle school. I’m pretty sure they form their hair-flipping, pinched-lipping, evil-oozing cliques in the nursery, shortly after birth. In this flashback, they’ve made it to high school and they’re surrounding my best friend’s desk and sniping at her. From where I sit I can’t hear what they’re saying. Their faces are pink with anger, their lips tight with righteousness and they’ve slammed a stage script on my best friend’s desk. I might have closed my eyes in dread.

My best friend was – and is – a seriously funny girl. She’s got a way of looking at the world that’s slightly skewed and screamingly insightful all at the same time, and her play-by-play of life is a master class in humor. Let’s just say she honed her rapier wit early in life – say, high school. Much of that honing took place in the margins of that script. Many of the screamingly insightful and bitingly funny comments pertained to the very nursery-pact bitches circling her desk, offended that someone should see past their perfect, Chanel appearances to the ugliness below. No, I couldn’t hear what they said. And I am humiliated to admit I sat rooted in my chair, hoping they didn’t notice me, because I was not as strong as my friend was. I could not withstand such an attack. But this one time, neither could she. She fled the room in tears.

And I sat. While my heart beat, and my palms sweat and my mouth went dry. I sat.

Now, &%^@ years later, and for all the years and days in between, I’ve regretted that moment. I’ve been haunted by my inability to stand up and defend my friend. The memory is torturously vivid; my regret a scar that will never fade.

So while I know a lot of writers whose fiction reflects the things they did do in their teen years, mine reflects what I didn’t. And, in good Hollywood therapeutic fashion, I overcompensate. My heroines are brave and don’t back down. They stand up for what they believe in – they have things they believe in! And they never, ever, ever let anyone hurt their friends.

Never.

Maybe in writing these characters I’ve gained the strength I lacked. Maybe I gained the strength and then created characters. I don't know. What I do know, is that now? you hurt one of my friends? I'm going all Ripley on your ass. Count on it.

And now that I've confessed that, it is, of course, time to share. No doubt you've always been able to stand up for yourself or your friends, but even so, there's got to be a moment -- serious or funny -- that'd you'd like to have back. one episode you'd like to either erase from the books or get a do-over on. Or maybe you just want to do something like this:

Peppy, you're my best friend, then and now. I don't know if you even remember that day, but clearly I won't forget it. I'm sorry for not being there for you then, but know I am here for you now and in all the days to come ~Jen.

Okay blog readers. Have at it:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Revenge is a dish best served with corn nuts

Let’s face it, high school is hell. Continuing on the topic of how inspiration from our youth still shapes the fiction we write today, I’m going to talk about payback.

My high school experience was less than ideal. Some jerkwad in a letterman’s jacket nicknamed me Mega Moo and it stuck. I used to come home from school and tearfully dream up ways to get back at kids who made my life hell for three years. One of the things I love about the movie HEATHERS (besides the awesome one-liners) is their exploitation of high school revenge. Come on, haven’t we all thought it?

The beauty of being an author is I can take my retribution in a socially sanctioned, hugely satisfying way. I get to create worlds where the outcasts rise above, and the petty populars get what they deserve. And while my protagonists are largely fiction, all of the less-than-nice characters that torment them are very personal. That’s right people, I’ve been keeping a list.

THE LIST
·         The jock in high school that called me Mega Moo

·         The mean girls who invited me to their sixth grade slumber party so they could torture me with pranks all night.

·         The pity date my HS BFF’s BF brought along for me, who referred to me as ugly.

·         The boy in college who called me to “confess” his feelings while his whole dorm floor listened in on the joke via speakerphone.

·         College boy’s evil roommate who called me pretending to be suicidal while his whole dorm floor listened in on the joke via speakerphone. (Yes this prank went on for a while in various forms.)

·         The biotch manager who made my life a living hell all the while acting like her doo doo didn’t stink.

·         Biotch manager number two (what is it with women managers?)

·         The instructor who belittled me in front of a room full of people.

·         Recent additions that may or may not be related to the writing industry.


I’m not attempting a complete character assassination. I don’t want to be sued or blackballed. And it’s not necessary. A trait or mannerism, a name, a description—like voodoo I incorporate an element of the person who’s wronged me into the character. It symbolic and cathartic.


For me, reading DEAR BULLY has reinforced how we tend to carry our tormentors around with us and the importance of letting go. With the release of THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN I’ve been able to cross a couple of people off my list. Some may call it revenge, but I call it therapy.

Corn nuts, anyone?

Now it's your turn: How do you let go of those who've tormented you?

Carey Corp lives in the greater Cincinnati area with her loveable yet out-of-control family. She wrote her first book, a brilliant retelling of Star Wars, at the prodigious age of seven. Since then, her love affair of reinvention has continued to run amuck. Writing both literary fiction and stories for young adults, she begins each morning consuming copious amounts of coffee while weaving stories that capture her exhaustive imagination. She harbors a voracious passion (in no constant order) for mohawks, Italy, musical theater, chocolate, and Jane Austen.

Carey’s debut novel for teens, The Halo Chronicles: The Guardian, was a 2010 RWA Golden Heart finalist for best young adult fiction. It is available in print and eBook. She blogs, tweets, and “friends.”
For more information, visit her at careycorp.com.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Peeta envy, or why I'm a jealous old fogey.

Now that we’ve shared those cringe-worthy teenage rites of passage, I get to kick off our next topic: how inspiration from our youth still shapes the fiction we write today. And since every decent writer is also an avid reader, I’m going to discuss the maturity level of what I read as a teen.

Kids today. They don’t know how good they’ve got it, what with their newfangled smarty-phones and their computers and their iPods and shit. Don’t even get me started on the internet—wish I’d had Professor Google at my fingertips to help me find the answers to those pesky US Government questions.



Okay, I jest. I don’t really envy the absence of technology in my youth, but I’ll tell you what teens today have that I would have given my left boob for a couple decades ago: a plethora of modern upper YA titles.
For real, teens, do you know how lucky you are? I strolled through Barnes & Noble last week and realized the YA section dominated the store, rows upon rows of dark, sexy covers promising enough mystical, romantic adventures to provide a decade of escapism. YA existed back in my day, but it hadn’t blossomed yet, and teen readers like myself had two basic choices: read up or read down.

I chose up. Way up. At thirteen, I started reading JRR Tolkien, Stephen King, and *gasp* Jackie Collins. I can distinctly remember huddling around a copy of Hollywood Wives with my prepubescent friends, giggling and groaning “Ewwwww!” during a rather graphic oral sex scene.  Okay, so maybe I wasn’t mature enough for adult romance at the time, but there was no Edward Cullen or Jacob Black, no Etienne St Claire, no Gale, and certainly no buff-n-sensitive, flour-sack-tossing Peeta. If a girl wanted some fictional lovin’, she didn’t have many options.

So I spent my teen years reading bodice rippers, and I graduated to Cosmopolitan magazine while most of my friends were still reading Sassy. (Is that still in print?) You could say I gave myself the kind of education they don’t provide in health class.
So what does that have to do with my writing? Well, it probably won’t shock you to hear I write racy romance (under the pen name Macy Beckett). While my YA is more age-appropriate, it’s definitely for upper teens, and during revisions, my agent suggested I…ahem…tone it down a little. Oopsie. Old habits and all that jazz.
Anyway, I wish I’d had teen protagonists like Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen to keep me young a little longer. What was my hurry, anyway? Growing up is overrated.


Now it's your turn: What did you read during your upper teen years? If you’re still a teen, what are you reading right now?