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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cinderella Kicks Off Those Glass Slippers for GCC Member Kay Cassidy

You gotta love an empowering twist on an old fairy tale, where instead of Cinderella stumbling upon her destiny, she’s asked to join a secret society and fight for it. Girl power! And that’s exactly why I’m excited for GCC Member Kay Cassidy’s (www.kaycassidy.com) new novel, THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY, which debuts this month through Egmont U.S.A.

As always, here’s a little bit about her book to get you hooked:

What a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn't want to wear it anymore?

Sixteen year old Jess Parker has always been an outsider. So when she receives an invitation to join The Cinderella Society, a secret society of the most popular girls in school, it's like something out of a fairy tale. Swept up by the Cindys' magical world of makeovers, and catching the eye of her Prince Charming, Jess feels like she's finally found her chance to fit in.

Then the Wickeds--led by Jess's arch-enemy--begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers there's more to being a Cindy than reinventing yourself on the outside. She has unknowingly become part of a centuries-old battle of good vs. evil, and now the Cindys in charge need Jess for a mission that could change everything.

Overwhelmed, Jess wonders if The Cinderella Society made a mistake in choosing her. Is it a coincidence her new boyfriend doesn't want to be seen with her in public? And is this glamorous, secret life even what she wants, or will she risk her own happy ending to live up to the expectations of her new sisters?

Here’s what Kay had to say:

Q: In AMOR AND SUMMER SECRETS, Mariana discovers a hidden family secret. Are you a good secret keeper?

Kay: I'm good at keeping other people's secrets but I tend to be terrible at keeping my own. LOL! I always swear I'm going to keep it secret and then spring the news on everyone at the same time but I always fold and need to share a squee moment with someone I love. :-)

Q: What is the favorite place you ever traveled to, and what was the coolest thing you saw/did there?

Kay: My all-time favorite vacation was when my husband and I spent a week in San Juan. The hotel we stayed at is no longer there but the rooms were in low buildings that were literally steps from a grassy patch with a hammock and the beach. It was heaven. We went to the Arecibo Observatory while we were there which was amazing. It's the world's largest radiotelescope, so if there's life out there beyond Earth, Arecibo is likely the place we would discover it. My husband and I both loved the movie Contact and the observatory is in the movie, so it was neat to see it in person.

I've been to that observatory! It's not that far from Utuado, where my dad (and my character's dad) is from.

Q: I often tell the story of how a psychic once predicted that I would go on to write children’s books. Have you ever visited a psychic?

Kay: I have! One of my favorite stores for my angel collection has them and I'll go in with a friend whenever she's in town. More often than not, they've been right even though I would've sworn they were totally off base given how my life was at that point. :-)

Q: My character Mariana spends her summer in Puerto Rico connecting with her father’s heritage. Have you ever researched your family tree?

Kay: Yay, Puerto Rico! My dad went through a massive genealogy phase and traced our ancestry back to Josephine, the wife of Napolean. He even has a database where he scanned in only photos to associate with people's entries… it was probably a decade long project for him. So I'm fortunate that his side of the family is completely done. And honestly, after seeing the painstaking efforts he went through, I gave up after only documenting a few generations of my mom's side. It's a daunting task!

Q: Where were you when you found out that your book was going to be published?
Kay: I was at home when I got a call from my agent. It was the day after an editor who had been championing the book for two months in-house had called to say it was finally passed over at acquisitions. I was crushed and certain the book was never going to sell. So naturally, my agent called the next morning with an offer from another publisher. That's so like life, isn't it? ;-)

Thank you, Kay! Now, everyone go out and buy books, lots and lots of books!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Big Shocker: Young Adult Novels Are Not About The Parents

This may come as a surprise to the folks over at the New York Times (I know they have their hands full trying not to become extinct and all), but really, if they’re going to publish essays about a genre of literature, they really should know something about it. And I don’t mean skimming the latest titles on the bestseller list and then using those five or six books to make sweeping generalizations about the thousands of others on the shelf.

I’m referring to the essay, The Parent Problem in Young Adult Lit, that recently appeared in the Book Review. The overall thesis seems to be that in the good ‘ole days, parents in children’s books at least had the good sense to be dead, leading to the “triumphant rise” of the orphan. But now, for shame, the “hapless parents” in young adult novels are “afflicted by anomie, sitting down to another dismal meal, or rushing out the door to a meeting,” which makes them “slightly ridiculous.”

The essayist backed up this conclusion by citing six, count ‘em six, contemporary young adult novels: Once Was Lost; How to Say Goodbye in Robot; Twilight; Wintergirls; Shiver; and The Hunger Games. Out of those six titles, she doesn’t even bother to give a single example from either Shiver or The Hunger Games. So really, the entire essay is based on four books.

I don’t know about you, but I think that qualifies her for an F on most college campuses. You can’t just cherry pick a few titles to back up your thesis while ignoring the dozens (hundreds) of titles that contradict it. She doesn’t give one example of a contemporary YA novel with functioning, engaged parents, as if they don’t exist—a fact I can easily back up with my own young adult series. (Hey, there are three books in the Amor and Summer Secrets series, so that should be enough to prove my point, right?)

But even putting the essayist’s poor research aside, and even accepting that the trend of the “hapless parent” exists in contemporary YA, I still don’t see the problem with this depiction. There are plenty of bad parents out there. There are plenty of teens reading and empathizing with a character whose dad is always working, or whose mother is in rehab, or whose parent can’t cook a decent dinner.

While these characters might seem “ridiculous” to a The New York Times essayist, I doubt they do to thousands of teenagers.

It’s as if the essayist lacks a basic understanding of contemporary teens as well as young adult literature. Because clearly, she doesn’t have much of a grasp on the genre if she’s actually wondering why YA parental characters are “less consequential…the father in Once Was Lost becomes somehow peripheral, his problems more muted and less interesting than his teenage daughter’s.”

Um, wow. You think?

Young adult novels are told through the eyes of a teenager. They’re also most often told in the first person. Of course that teen’s problems seem more “consequential” than the parents. We’re purposely only getting the teenager’s point-of-view—that’s sort of what makes a novel fit the young adult genre. But really, do I need to explain that to a New York Times reporter? Because that’s like explaining why mystery novels are plot driven or why fantasy novels have so many funky names. You would think the folks at the Book Review would kind of get that already.

But you know, whatever. I guess I’ll just go back to writing my WIP about the hapless single dad of two teenager daughters who has the audacity to pull double shifts to put a roof over their head. You know, how ridiculous.

POP CULTURE RANT: Glee & Jessica Simpson
Okay, I love Glee. Fine family fun! But last night, there was one line in particular that had me screaming at the TV. It was when Finn looked up at his basketball coach and said, “He pulled a ‘Jessica Simpson.’ You know, lost his fiancé, gained 40 pounds, and stopped showering. And everyone acts like it’s totally normal.” Say it with me: Jessica Simpson IS NOT FAT. Not even close. Yes, at one point she lost a ton of weight to shrink to a freakish size 0 to play Daisy Duke. But the fact that she chose to return to a more normal size 4, does not make her fat. Yes, there was that unfortunate mom jeans picture. But even then, she probably wasn’t more than a size 6. So, get over it! Stop picking on her weight, Hollywood. Or instead of being one of the world’s fattest nations, our next generation is going to be the most anorexic nation. And historians will trace the epidemic’s roots all the way back to the mom jeans.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bullies Are Totally Lame, And We're Gonna Prove It

I’m sure many of you have been following the tragic Phoebe Prince story, the smart, attractive teen who took her own life in response to, essentially, being bullied to death. Nine classmates have been charged with her death, and I can’t help but wonder how many of them were tormenting Phoebe with no real idea as to even why she’d become their target. Now they’re facing prison, forced to live with the death of their classmate hanging over their souls forever, all because they wanted to be part of the “in” crowd.

You see, that’s how bullying really survives. Out of those nine teens, I’d venture to guess that only one, maybe two, could be described as a real ringleader—a person full of hate who truly took joy out of watching Phoebe suffer. I’d say the other seven or eight teens involved were merely going along, sending hateful text messages and Facebook posts, just to get their own warped sense of attention. They thought it was “cool” to bully Phoebe.

And that’s where our problem lies. Bullying someone, going along with the group, doing something you know down to your bones is wrong, IS NOT COOL.

It’s not cool to be too afraid to think for yourself.

It’s not cool to be too weak to stand up to your friends .

It’s not cool to torment a girl just because you’re afraid that if it’s not Phoebe who’s getting attacked, then it might be you.

Think about that: about seven or eight of those teens are facing orange jumpsuits and being forced to forever live with the fact that they caused another girl’s death all because they wanted to be "cool."

So in an effort to really lift the stigma of bullying, to show how lame and damaging it is, a group of us young adult authors have joined an important new cause: YAAAB.

Young Adult Authors Against Bullying
(YAAAB) is a new group (friend it on Facebook) founded by YA authors Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall. There are more than 50 authors in the group, myself included, with the goal of making sure every teen out there knows how uncool bullying is.

Because here’s the thing, we’ve all gone through it. All of us. In fact, we have so many personal bullying stories that we’re putting together an anthology to tell our tales. We want teens to know what we went through growing up, how vividly we still remember it, and how it affects us to this day. Because, believe me, it does.

So join YAAAB. Agree to make your classroom, your group of friends, your sports team, a no bullying zone. And promise that the next time you see a kid being teased, you won’t just walk by and ignore it. Think of Phoebe and think of all the classmates who saw what was happening everyday and did nothing. Say something.

Because standing up for someone, and something you believe in, is what really makes you cool.

POP CULTURE RANT: Philadelphia Eagles
I can’t believe they actually did it. I can’t believe they traded McNabb. There have been rumors for years that this could happen. But it was just gossip. I never thought they’d really cut him loose. But they did. And on Easter Sunday no less. Now, let me go on the record saying that I am a McNabb fan. I own his jersey. And even if he does throw a few too many passes in the dirt, I think when the dust settles on the football fields of history, this city will look back and realize he was the best quarterback we’ve ever had. Kolb is going to choke this season (yes, I said it), and we’re all going to spiral back to the sad years reminiscent of Rich Kotite or Koy Detmer and sadly gain the hindsight to appreciate the McNabb and Reid era for how great it really was. Wow, “was.” We’ll miss you, McNabb! See you twice a year with the Redskins!

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