Wednesday, November 30, 2011

WELCOME WEDNESDAY GUEST POST: Renee Pace's Being Poor in High School Sucks

(Carey here. I am so happy to welcome ya author Renee Pace to Honestly YA. Although she lives far away from where I grew up, her universal topic is close to my heart.)

High school is hell. If you think it’s not, just remember that at no other time in your life will you feel like all eyes are watching you. Everyone observes your behavior—your parents, the teachers and even your BFFs. And just when you think it can’t get worse it will. Trust me, I know that from personal experience it will.
 My book Off Leash highlights poverty. I did this because in my small fishing community there were hard times. Did that matter to me? You bet. Hard times meant going without. Trying to get through high school on second-hand clothing from your cousin’s closet from two years ago? Whenever I saw her she always made a point of saying I looked good in her clothes. She lied. I didn’t look good in them. Out-dated and with my five foot-four frame compared to her five-nine model-thin body, the clothes made me look strange. My mother never cut the hem off the pants. She always tacked them up, just in case I had a growth spurt.  That never happened. Sweaters became my strategy through high school. If I put a sweater on over one of her shirts I’d be okay, but the minute that bulky sweater came off I was overly conscious of my flat chest. She filled out the shirts and I definitely didn’t.  To say I hated gym class would be an understatement. I think gym teachers live to embarrass teenagers. I was so self-conscious back then I resorted to changing in the washrooms.
What was worse than gym? Ah, you guessed it—the cafeteria. I always brown bagged it. Not because I didn’t have food but my food was usually the same—some type of homemade stew. You might think my parents were trying to be health conscious, try again. Homemade stew usually made from some type of wild creature my father hunted (think rabbit, deer and bears here) could get you through a lot of school days but it was embarrassing as hell. I always got teased. When it became clear I was soon going to be nicknamed the “soup lady” I stopped taking lunch.
I lived off coffee in high school and waited until I got home to eat. Like Jay in my book I pretended I was full and all was okay. I started working when I was 16 at my local drug store and to me it was the best thing ever. That first pay cheque I got I went into the cafeteria line and ordered French fries with gravy. Still to this day I can remember how they tasted—hot, slightly mushy and omg great.

Today as an adult I know those memories seem silly but whenever I see anyone from my high school days, which thankfully doesn’t happen a lot, I cringe. I’m 42 now but in their eyes I always feel like that awkward self-conscious teen, and that totally sucks.

Renee Pace is a young adult writer who likes to tackle real teen issues in her nitty gritty series. Mother of four children she calls Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada home. She loves coffee, living near the Atlantic Ocean and believes strongly in volunteerism. She is a member of Romance Writers of American, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, the Society of Children Writers and Illustrators, and the Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation. To find out more about Renee Off Leash, or her December release Off Limits please visit http://www.reneepace.com/  
Great post Renee! Thanks so much for stopping by Honestly YA. Off Leash is is at the top of my TBR pile and I can't wait to read. Today, Renee will be giving away one digital copy of Off Leash. Follow the Honestly YA blog and leave your comment below for a chance to win. Standard contest disclaimer applies.

Your turn: Was poverty a noticeable issue in your school? If so what side of the tracks/median income did you fall on?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Makin' Up Is Hard To Do!

Melissa & Heather, circa 1989

When Jennifer introduced the topic of best friends, I knew I’d be telling you about my bestie, Heather. That’s a no-brainer. What I didn’t know was specifically what I’d tell you. We go way back, people. I’ve got more than twenty years of material to choose from!  Do I share the tale of our epic—and semi-nude—adventures backpacking through Italy and Greece? Nah. Who wants to see topless photos of eighteen-year-old girls? Perverts, that’s who. And our readers aren’t perverts.

So, instead, I decided to tie in the topic of friendship with something every writer (and BFF) knows well—and that’s conflict.

All friends fight. I maintain you’re a freak of nature if you don’t.  But many years ago, Heather and I quarreled over something stupid, and we didn’t speak for nearly three years afterwards. Yeah, you heard that right. Three years. I’ll woman up and claim responsibility—it was my fault.

I’d been dating Heather’s older brother, and when the relationship ended and she sent me an email asking why, I lost my shit and got defensive. I told her it was none of her business, or something equally rude and un-BFF-like. She did the logical thing and backed off, and then it began: The Silence.

Nothing suffocates friendship like The Silence. Because each day you don’t speak, the “what if’s” grow louder, planting doubts in your mind like, What if I reach out and she snubs me? What if she hates me now? And after years have gone by, What if it’s awkward between us? What if we can’t get it back?

I was an emotional wussy, choosing silence instead of growing a pair and apologizing. But luckily for me, Heather’s got some serious brass berries. One day, she sent me an email, basically saying, “Look. I don’t remember why we’re fighting, but this is stupid, and I miss you.” I snatched that olive branch with both hands and never looked back.

Now we’re like this again ::crosses fingers:: separated by time zones, not conflict. In fact, my husband complains that Heather and I sound like a pair of lovers when we post Miss you! or Love you! on each other’s Facebook pages. We stay in touch and get together once a year, usually each spring, for a BFF getaway. Speaking of which, I could use that vacation right about now!

Posing with our anatomically-correct snow couple. (1990)

As for my writing, I’ve noticed themes of fractured friendships in both my books. In OUTWORLDERS, my YA sci-fi, the main character and her best friend don’t speak for months. And when they finally make up, they’re quickly separated again…by galaxies. In my adult romance, the main character is reunited with her best friend after a ten-year rift…and that best friend happens to be her super-sexy first love!

(I should probably disclose that my BFF is super-sexy, but I don’t swing that way. Love ‘ya, Heather!)
Melissa & Heather, circa 2009


Now it’s your turn! Tell me about a time you fought with a good friend. Or better yet, tell me how you reconnected with one!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

WELCOME WEDNESDAY GUEST POST: Jo Ramsey's High School Hell

When Lea Nolan invited me to guest  post here and told me that the topic was “high school hells,” my first thought was, “Wow…I can definitely talk about that.”

Not that I want to. I don’t think anyone should have to go through hell, in high school or otherwise. Unfortunately, it happens. When I was in high school, I was the kid who was bullied by the kids who were bullied. Lowest in the pecking order. Beginning in kindergarten, every day that I went to school I was teased, picked on, or bullied in one way or another. I was what you might call an easy target.

Most days that I went to school, I didn’t want to be there. I perfected the art of playing sick so I could either stay home or be sent home. When all else failed, I hid in the school library. I did have a handful of friends, but they were far outnumbered by the bullies. Added to that, I was very shy and afraid to talk to most people, and I think that contributed to my being bullied. After graduation, a few people told me that they had wanted to be my friend but thought I was “stuck up” because I didn’t talk to anyone.

One of my clearest memories of high school is wanting to slam a cheerleader against her locker—preferably many times—after she shouted at me, “Hey, elephant girl, why don’t you learn how to walk?” I’m not normally a violent person, and I didn’t actually touch her, or even respond, but that day I really, really wanted to do something. I was a senior then, and after twelve years I’d had it. I was sick and tired of being treated like crap.

Come on, you know you want to punch them too.
Nothing changed after that day. No one knew how close I’d come to actual physical violence. But I did start forcing myself not to care what people said about me. I was almost finished high school, and I would go on to do things that the kids who put me down wouldn’t be able to believe. I didn’t have to live my life based on their snippy little comments and insults. After all, they were only putting me down to make themselves feel better, and that was kind of sad for them.

Of course, I’m far from the only one who’s ever been through hell in high school. Pretty much every teen movie ever made deals with one kind of hell or another, from Emilio Estevez’s character in The Breakfast Club bragging about duct-taping a kid’s buttocks together to the over-the-top but not completely unrealistic sniping and bullying in Mean Girls. 
Lets see if he likes having his butt taped together.
There are so many books that deal with kids being teased or bullied, or having friends turn on them or stab them in the back, that I can’t even think of any to name (too many titles rushing through my brain). High school, with hundreds or even a couple thousand kids crammed into one building, is a fertile ground for conflicts of all kinds to occur.
The Plastics...ruling the school one insult at a time.
When my editor at Featherweight Press started working on my new novel Cluing In, one of the comments he made to me was, “All this happens to one person? I don’t remember this much drama at my high school.” My response was, “You’re lucky, then.”

The “drama” that Jamey Mandel, the main character in Cluing In, experiences is little compared to what some of my high school friends, and some of the high school students I’ve worked with, have dealt with in real life. Jamey has things pretty good for the most part. There are a few students at his high school that he doesn’t get along with, but most of the time he avoids them and they avoid him. The biggest problem in his life at the beginning of the book is that his girlfriend Tina is pressuring him to have sex. Jamey’s parents were only eighteen when he was born, and his father had moved out of state by the time Jamey’s mother learned she was pregnant, so she raised him alone for the first five years of his life. He has good reasons to want to wait for having sex.

After he breaks up with Tina, things get worse. She starts dating one of the guys Jamey doesn’t get along with. Then the rumors start. Rumors, unfortunately, are a big part of high school life (at least in the high schools I’ve been in), and Jamey’s school is no exception. Rumors go around about him being a virgin, which isn’t so bad since it’s true, but that isn’t something he wanted everyone to know about.

Rumors also go around that Tina’s pregnant by her new boyfriend, and that he’s dumped her because of it. And that’s also true.

Not being able to take the entire school knowing about her pregnancy, and not wanting to risk them finding out that she’s terminated it, Tina takes her own life. Some of the school blames Jamey, who entirely blames himself since Tina had come to him for help and he’d turned her away. Other students blame Tina’s new boyfriend, to the point of calling him a murderer, and the only thing that keeps him from taking the same way out as Tina is some quick thinking by Jamey.

High school can definitely be hell. Especially if you’re the target of bullying or rumors. Fortunately, it can also be a support system, as Jamey finds out.


Cluing In is available from Featherweight Press and from third-party retailers. To find out more about Jo Ramsey and her books, please visit www.joramsey.com

Great post, Jo! Thanks so much for stopping by Honestly YA. CLUING IN looks like a fantastic book. So how about you, gentle readers? Did you weather any bullying in high school? Evil rumors? Ever land a punch in retaliation, or just wish you had? Unload in the comments section below. 




Monday, November 21, 2011

HIGH SCHOOL, LIKE LIFE, IS AWKWARD.

I am “that girl.”

You know, that girl that got pooped on by a seagull on her way to the cafeteria. That girl who fell on her a** in a mud puddle in the quad. That girl who made out w/Kevin-the-player behind the gym. That girl who got drunk and slept in a bush at her HS reunion (wait, scratch that last one).

It’s a tricky existence…navigating the hell that is high school, where being invisible is as bad as standing out and so much effort is expended trying to fit in without conforming. Sometimes the real hell of high school is living with yourself. Not some world-wise, grown-up, quasi-superhero, kick-ass version of yourself, but the wimpy, head-in-the-sand, freak-a** version who cares entirely more about the outside than the inside. The version that spends entirely too much time hiding and angsting over what people think about you—people you don’t even like!


Maybe that’s why MTV’s AWKWARD rocked me like a hurricane, because I understood Jenna Hamilton, the show’s “that girl,” on a cellular level.

One of the things I love most about AWKWARD. is Jenna Hamilton’s carefrontation letter. The anonymous letter is brutal in its honesty, so much so, that it is impossible to believe the author is anything other than a frenemy. Jenna’s carefrontation says things like:

·  number 1: Stop being a p**** (think kitty slang)
· number 2: Your instincts suck. Second guess them.
· number 3: The only people more pathetic then you are your friends. Drop the dead weight.
· number 4: When you're pretty, you're happy. And clearly you're not happy.
· number 5: Pull your head out of your a** and stand out.
· number 6: Nobody likes the pitiful. Stop being such a drag.
· number 7: You have to be cruel to be kind.


One of the questions AWKWARD. made me ask is if I were to write a carefrontation to my fifteen-year-old self, what would I say? After a couple weeks of thought, here’s what I came up with.

Dear Carey,

In ten years all this mundane, angsty adolescent bullsh** will matter about as much as something you scraped off your shoe. So stop the Emo crap and grow a pair!!!
·  number 1: Life will always suck. Find the joy in each day.
· number 2: Stop waiting for someone to rescue you. Rescue yourself!
· number 3: Sometimes being liked is not as important as being feared. Connect with your inner BIATCH.
· number 4: Screw what your simple-minded peers think. Do what makes you happy.
· number 5: Invest emotionally in your besties not your frenemies. In ten years, you won’t give a sh** about your enemies but your friends will still matter.
· number 6: When warranted, throw a punch. Some jerkwads deserve it.
· number 7: Always stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It might be uncomfortable in the short term but you’ll like yourself a whole lot more in the long run.
· number 8: Don’t try to hide, or conform, or blend; Stop worrying about standing out or fitting in; No one will give a sh** whether you were invisible or popular. Figure out who you are and be that person. Own your life!
WOW! If I could only invent time travel, go back and stage an intervention for myself... Unfortunately, I'm not Stephen Hawking or H.G. Wells (I don't even srite science fiction). Fortunately, thanks to AWKWARD. creator Lauren Iungerich, I realize just how far I've come since my pathetic teen years.

Other things to love about AWKWARD. (The part where I shamelessly plug one of my fav new shows.)

·         The music
·         The ΓΌber-talented cast

 
o   Ashley Rickards as Jenna Hamilton

 o   The hotties Matty and Jake played by fatabulous Beau Mirchoff and Brett Davern


o   The nemesis – the lovely Molly Tarlov gives a wonderfully  layered and complex performance as Queen Biatch Sadie

·         o   The bestie – Jillian Rose Reed is hilarious as Tamara
·         o   The mom – Nikki Deloach’s performance can be described in one word “free-boobing”
·         o   The guidance counselor -  Desi Lydic’s Valerie is often ditzy, always radiant



For the full 411 read the glowing NYTimes article High School, That Hilarious Minefield

Now that I've turned you on to AWKWARD. ("You're welcome.") it's YOUR TURN:


What would you put in a carefrontation letter to your fifteen-year-old self?


Carey Corp is the author of THE HALO CHRONICLES: THE GUARDIAN and a new short story THE WAY LIFE WAS FOREVER.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Finding the Frog in BFs and BFFs


High school can bring about all kinds of hell, and put all kinds of pressures on friendships. This latest topic looks at either, or both. Since I shared a hellish high school memory last month, I'm taking the friendship angle to kick off the topic... although, my high school memory was also about friendship. Hmm... All right, just stick with me )
My first serious, long-term boyfriend – okay, my first boyfriend, period – was an “all in” kind of guy. He was totally into the cowboy thing (which in retrospect is hilarious given we lived in the shadow of Manhattan) and totally devoted to me. I don’t say that to be vain, just to set the stage.
Our very first date we doubled with Cowboy’s best friend, Flyboy, and his girlfriend (unlike Cowboy, Flyboy really was a small craft pilot). Flyboy and I got along fine…for a while. Little by little, though, as time progressed, Cowboy spent more and more time with me and less and less time with Flyboy. For those of you who’ve been in this situation, you know what this makes me (or, err, you). The girlfriend who comes between two best guy friends is an interloper at best, a royal bitch at worst.

I was a royal bitch. Whenever Flyboy and I found ourselves in one another’s company, he sneered at me and I cowered. Honest to donkeys I had no idea what I was doing to deserve the hostility treatment…until, as was inevitable, I broke up with Cowboy (cos omg he was totally suffocating me!) and Cowboy moved on to another girl, and Flyboy once again got left in the dust…or the clouds, I suppose.
In time, Flyboy had the grace to apologize for treating me the way he did, confessing that he thought I had put some constraint on Cowboy that prevented the guys from hanging together. While Cowboy faded off into the sunset for both of us, Flyboy and I went on to become truly good friends, and I swore to myself I would never let a guy come between me and my best friend, ever. I saw what it could do to friendships, and I didn't want it happening to mine. And it never did.
So how about you princes and princesses out there? Ever been pushed aside for a frog? Ever been the one doing the pushing? How did it turn out? Share your experiences in the comments -- I've got to go hit facebook to see if I can't find Flyboy.... *vbg*

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Need A Hero! Or, the origin of the YA male species.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been talking about how inspiration from our youth shapes our fiction today. I hate to be the contrarian, but I’m here to argue the opposite: how the lack of inspiration from way back when affects what I write now. There, I said it. There’s no turning back. You've got no choice but to ease into your deskchair and hear me out.

First to be clear, I’m not busting on the children’s and young adult cannon of my youth. Those books are wonderful. They provided an amazing escape from a not always happy childhood. Magical, transportive and sometimes empowering, they were my quiet port in a sometimes very turbulent storm.

But in hindsight, I recognize they lack one essential element: Well rounded, squeal-worthy, romantic heros. The kind of guys who populate today's YA literature and who teen readers probably take for granted. These days, you can dream about Edward, Jacob, Damen, Gale, Peeta and Jace, to name a few. It wasn’t always thus, young readers. You don’t know how lucky you are.
Like Bonnie Tyler, I need a hero,
I'm holding out for a hero 'til the morning light.
Don’t believe me? Let’s peruse my childhood and adolescent bibliography and consider some standout heroes:

Ned Nickerson is Nancy Drew's "special friend" or boyfriend, depending on the story and the edition you read. That's him on the cover of The Mystery of the Fire Dragon in the blue suit, next to the culturally insensitive depiction of an Asian man. Ned doesn't show up often in Nancy's amateur sleuthing adventures, but when he does, he frequently rescues her from a life-threatening situation; occasionally she does the same for him. Ned's a great student, an all-around jock, and he sells insurance during the summer. I don't know about you, but nothing says sexy like the title "part-time insurance salesman." Nancy and Ned go on a lot of dates and sometimes travel together to foreign countries, but nothing ever happens between them. No hand holding. Not even a furtive, chaste kiss. Sad face for Nancy. 

But all is not lost. Through the wonders of television, in the late 1970's Nancy Drew Mysteries show, Nancy finally got some off of Rick Springfield--Rick Springfield, people!--in the one and only episode he played Ned. Look at him over there. How cute is he? I bet it only took one kiss from Nancy to forget all about Jessie's Girl.


We can't talk about Nancy Drew without considering her crime-fighting brothers in arms, the Hardy Boys. In case you can't remember, here's how you tell them apart: Frank is the one with dark hair; Joe is blond. Frank's the thinker; Joe's more "impulsive" which I'm guessing is another way of saying "dumb" since they're a year apart but they're both in the same grade. These straight-laced guys know how to rock a pull-over sweater, but when it comes to the ladies, they're not exactly players. The two girls who sometimes help them solve mysteries--Callie and Iola--are their platonic girlfriends.


The Hardy's got a much needed boost to the sexy factor when they moved to television. Seventies icons Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy (David Cassidy's super cutie brother) took on the roles of Frank and Joe, surging Teen Beat sales and teenage girls' hearts. And they pulled off the big collar look with panache. Take a gander at those disco-era hunks. Who wouldn't want to run their fingers through that glorious feathered hair?



Hobbits. Um, well, Bilbo found Smaug's treasure and Frodo saved Middle-earth, but would you want to snuggle up with one of these Shire-dwelling mini-men with oversized, hairy feet? Yeah, me neither.



With reading choices slim, I turned to VC Andrews Flowers in the Attic and its sequels. Dark, creepy and intense, these books yanked me by the neck and never let go. But I never connected with their "hero", Chris Dollanganger, the eldest of four children whose mother and grandmother lock them in an attic for years and eventually poison them with arsenic. Granted, this horrid childhood is likely to mess a guy up, but Chris takes it to a new level. Brilliant, blond and beautiful, he's also a sister-rapist who becomes so obsessed with Cathy he eventually convinces her to live together as a common law couple. Icky ick ick.  



Michael Wagner is the hero in Forever. I love me some Judy Blume. With sprinkles and a cherry on top. So you can imagine how exhilarated I was to learn, at the tender age of eleven, that Ms. Judy had written a book about *sex* which included detailed sexy times on the page. My friend Kim and I forged a note from her mom giving us permission to take it out of the local library and immediately scanned the pages for some boom chicka wow wow. We found it, but those scenes were sparse. Surrounding them was a whole lot of blah blah blah about feelings, being ready, and getting on the pill. Blech. Okay, that’s what I thought as an eleven year old. Now, as a mother of three, I’m like, “Hell ya, Judy, sing it!” Michael is a mother's dream. And that’s the point. He's is a wonderful, respectful, thoughtful and deliberate guy, the perfect character to share a respectful, thoughtful and deliberate first time with. But that’s not what I was looking for as a reader. I wanted him to excite me too, make me fall in love with him. I didn’t. 


So, what's a girl to do when she can't find a hero? Write her own. I've tried to create heroes who are well rounded, complex guys who also happen to be romantic and super, duper hot. Hey, why not create a perfect package? 


In my book, The Hoodoo Apprentice, Cooper Beaumont is the sole heir to his family's vast fortune, but he's not a rich douchebag. Instead, largely due to his tragic past, he's kind and compassionate, plus he's got bulging biceps and an awesome six pack. His best friend, Emma Guthrie has secretly loved him for a year but is too afraid to act on her feelings lest it impact their friendship. But Cooper's got some secret feelings of his own, which he longs to share with her. With the help of a little Gullah hoodoo magic spell, he finally finds the nerve. Happy faces for both Emma and Cooper.

~Lea

Lea Nolan can be found at her website, on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.  She is represented by the astonishingly fantastic Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency.  

So what about you, blog readers? Who are the heroes you remember reading back in the day? Which of today's heroes get your heart pumping? Do you agree there's a difference between the heroes of yesteryear and the ones featured in today's novels? I can't wait to hear what you think!