Author Corrine Jackson on Strong Female Characters plus a Giveaway!

Corrine Jackson

Today we welcome Young Adult author Corrine Jackson to the blog to talk about strong female characters. Corrine’s second book in her Sense Thieves trilogy, PUSHED, features Remy, a girl with uncanny healing powers  (a synopsis follows Corrine’s post). You can enter to win a copy by leaving the name of your favorite strong female character in a comment below! You can also enter the official blog tour giveaway. Keep reading for details. 🙂

 Corrine’s thoughts on creating strong female characters:

In philosophical terms, human agency is “the capacity of an agent (a person or other entity, human or any living being in general, or soul-consciousness in religion) to act in a world.” The key word there is ACT. In my undergrad literature classes, we spent a lot of time discussing how agency is what separates our heroes from secondary characters. Heroes take action. They are a force to be reckoned with. How much agency did Oedipus Rex have over his fate vs. the oracle predicting the outcome? How much power did Othello exert in the circumstances that led to the murder of his wife Desdemona, or was he merely an instrument for Iago? What we’re really talking about when we talk about human agency is the power to act. And writers know that action is what propels a story forward.

Too often female characters are powerless to make choices that impact their future. Male characters make decisions for them. This female character is waiting around for a male to save her. She is defined by the man in her life, rather than by the choices she is making. She lacks agency. Sometimes this is used as a plot device, until the last moment when she finally saves the world via some magical power.  

Strong female characters, like their male counterparts, will ACT. She will play a role in her fate, and make choices and decisions that push PUSHED bookthe story along. In my Sense Thieves series, Remy has the power to heal people with her touch, but she’s been raised in an abusive household, taught that people inevitably cause pain. That description of her background isn’t what makes her strong. She could be waiting for a hero to save her. But despite her circumstances (maybe because of them), Remy chooses to help people, to save people because nobody saved her. She heals people even though it frequently puts her life at risk and always causes her pain. That choice to act, even when it’s ill-advised (and puts her in a great deal of danger in PUSHED) makes her strong in my book. The decisions don’t have to be good ones, but the character does have to be making choices to drive the story forward. A female character in this role is a strong one, in my opinion.

*Source: Wikipedia

To find out more about the strong female character Corrine created in Remy, check out this synopsis of PUSHED! (Giveaway details follow. )

She didn’t know how far she’d go—until she was pushed.

Remy O’Malley was just learning to harness her uncanny healing power when she discovered the other, darker half of her bloodline. Now she lives trapped between two worlds, uneasy among her fellow Healers—and relentlessly hunted by the Protectors.  Forced to conceal her dual identity, and the presence of her Protector boyfriend Asher Blackwell, Remy encounters a shadow community of Healers who will put her loyalties to the test.

Pushed to the limit, with the lives of those she loves most on the line, Remy must decide whether to choose sides in a centuries-old war—or make the ultimate sacrifice and go to a place from which she may never return…

 Publisher: Kensington/KTeen   ISBN-10: 0758273347

Buy PUSHED:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million| German Amazon

Add to Your Shelf:

Goodreads

 

The Giveaway below is officially over. Entries were numbered and the total number was entered into the Random Number Generator at random.org, which selected Michele. Congratulations Michele!

Giveaway(s)! There are TWO ways to win a copy of PUSHED!

1. Comment on this post with the name of your favorite strong female character. I hope we get a long list because I’d love to make a strong-female pie chart ! Contest ends on midnight February 15 to enter this blog’s giveaway! A winner will be chosen using random.org.

2. Enter the official blog tour giveaway here: a Rafflecopter giveaway !

You can enter both giveaways. Yay for strong female characters!

More about PUSHED author Corrine Jackson: Young adult author Corrine Jackson lives in San Francisco and has over ten years experience in marketing. She has bachelor and master degrees in English, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. Her novels include If I Lie (Simon Pulse) and the Sense Thieves trilogy (KTeen), comprised of Touched,Pushed, and Ignited (5/27/14). Visit her at CorrineJackson.com or on Twitter at @Cory_Jackson.

Visit other stops on the PUSHED blog tour by clicking HERE.

PUSHED book

How NO helps you GROW

Keith Urban Quote

 

When I heard Keith Urban say the above words during last weeks’ airing of American Idol, I had a YES moment. These are words that I often want to say to beginning writers whose work I critique. These are words that every creative person needs to hear. These are words that I need to tell myself as I parent my children.

Urban was referring, of course, to the many contestants auditioning for American Idol who have failed to be truly competitive. What holds them back is often not a lack of talent. It is the failure to hone that talent. They have not improved because they’ve never opened their minds to the possibility that they need improvement. They have not looked for their flaws, seeking to eradicate them, because they’ve been told they are flawless.

It is a lesson for all who seek to stand out for a skill, craft, or talent. If we live by the old adage, “You can’t improve perfection,” we’d do well to remember another old saying, “Nobody’s perfect.”

I think this is an important thing to keep in mind for every professional. It is crucial for people like writers who work in a highly competitive field. Years ago, I was in a critique group that met monthly.  Two members of my group, every single month, wrote GREAT across the top of my manuscript. That five letter word didn’t help me at all. It made me want to scream, “If it’s so great, why hasn’t it sold? Tell me what’s WRONG with it!” But of course, I never did that. Instead, I eventually quit the group.

Now, I occasionally critique the work of other writers professionally. One writer whose work I’ve had the pleasure of reading is now blogging here at Nerdy Chicks Rule. Before I met Mary, her manuscript came to me with a note that said something like, “I want to know what I can do better. Give it to me straight. I can take it.” While that entire quote is not verbatim, I am positive the last three words are. They stood out. I could tell Mary was a writer who wanted to learn and improve. I immediately knew I’d like her. And I did!

Whether you are an author seeking publication or a singer seeking idolization, it is important to get feedback from someone who will point out your weaknesses. Your work is your own and you have to make final decisions about it for yourself. But I advise writers to look for feedback from the kind of person who will tell you if you have broccoli in your teeth, onion breath, or toilet paper stuck to your shoe. These are the people who want to save you from embarrassment. These are the people who will say, “That’s not so good.” By telling you NO, these people will ultimately help you hear YES!

 

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com.

 

 

 

 

 

PiBoIdMo Wrap Up: Let it Be

Duck Duck Moose by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

My upcoming picture book!

Now that Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month is over, I thought it would be nice to reflect a little bit on what we’ve accomplished in the past few weeks. If you participated in PiBoIdMo, first off, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve made great progress on your writing journey. Publishing is an art where creativity and magic come together to make great books. But publishing is also a numbers game – the more manuscripts you create, the more likely it is that some of them will get published. And how do you create manuscripts? Well, it starts with ideas. And now you have lots of ideas – at least 30 if you got through the month! (More if you followed my PiBoIdMo advice.) So you’re all set!

Except…

I’ve got some bad news. Well, potentially bad news. More like bad reality, actually. Except that reality is never bad.

Here’s the reality of the situation: not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas.

I know you want them to be. I know that’s what you intended and planned for. I know you have great dreams for these ideas, dreams that are so good that you want to will them into existence.

But for some of your ideas, those dreams will never come true.

I’m not saying these things to upset you, or to de-motivate you. You shouldn’t lose your momentum. I just want you to focus your energy on the best paths to maximize your ability to succeed and get published.

Here’s the thing: your story ideas are like your children. You give birth to them, you nurture them, you guide them toward the goals you have carefully set for them. You know what’s best and you will make that happen.

For those of you who have children, you’re probably already guessing where this is going to go.

With our children, no matter what we have dreamed for them when they were helpless babes in our arms, those kids who once needed us for their very survival somehow end up being the people they choose to be. Not necessarily the people we intended them to be.

This is the kid who was supposed to grow up to be a doctor…

My parents wanted me to be a doctor. They even bought me a $100K science education from Caltech. And in the end, I write books about talking pigs.

With our characters, our story ideas, they will also be who they are, regardless of what we want them to be.

Early on, I said that not all of the ideas you have so carefully thought up during PiBoIdMo are picture book ideas. That is reality. Some of those ideas will turn out to be chapter books, or middle grades, no matter how hard we push them to be something else. (Just like some of our children will become kidlit authors, no matter how hard we push them to be doctors.) That’s ok.

Some of those ideas will turn out to flounder and struggle, will find it difficult to ever realize their full potential. That’s ok, too.

Because the reality is that some of the ideas you have are picture book ideas. They need you to cultivate and develop them, but with your help, they will grow to be wonderful picture books.

The key here is to let your characters be who they are. Let your stories be what they are. If they grow into something different than you thought, follow them on their path instead of forcing them onto your own. The end result will be truer, will have more heart, and will be better written.

Good luck to everyone and see you next PiBoIdMo!

(In case you missed it, here is some more PiBoIdMo advice from Kami and from me from earlier this month.)

What Does THE END Look Like?

THE END. It’s usually a good place to be. It means you have completed a journey. The last day of November marked THE END for writers who participated in NaNoWriMo or PiBoIdMo. They’ve slogged through the hurdles of drafting a novel, or worked through creative bursts of ideas for picture books until they accumulated at least 30. But writer or not, when you’ve completed a task, it is always good to find yourself at THE END of it.

When I get to THE END of a project, I’m usually surrounded by chaos. I think I’m that classic creative type who works best in a mess. Up to a point… This November, I not only participated in PiBoIdMo, but did the final proofing of my forthcoming novel, The Boy Problem AND finished a novel I’ve been working on for years. I met all of my goals! But when I was finished, my desk looked like this:

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As much as this desk helped me get to THE END of two novels, I found I couldn’t begin to start a new project on it. So I did something I don’t like doing very much. I gave up a day of writing to organize. I stacked all of the drafts of The Boy Problem together.  The result was a ten inch, twenty seven pound stack. When you look at that you can kind of see how I work through a novel. With lots of little flags noting pages that still need work. This probably only represents half of them, many were pulled out along the way.

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There were a few more stacks not-quite-so-impressive stacks as well… but eventually, my desk looked like this.

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Yeah, I know there are still two pretty messy piles, but you don’t expect me to create in a completely clean environment, do you? The point is, I’ve reached THE END of some important projects! And now, with space on my desk, I can start a new project… a new beginning!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When  an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real! It marks THE END of a great journey!

I recently received the ARCs for THE BOY PROBLEM! When an author actually holds an ARC, the book finally feels real.It marks THE END of a great journey!

Onward we go! What does THE END look like to you?

Walking Into Words

We authors are world builders, so nothing thrills us more than to see our words come to life in the form of a book. That way, we know that people will enter the worlds we create through our IMG_20131109_123313_504words. A few talented and lucky writers create worlds so vivid that they are recreated in the form of movies, and their worlds then reach millions through words and visuals. That must be an amazing feeling. And even fewer writers have their worlds recreated in three dimensional in places where we, the readers, can actually experience and interact with these word-built words! Butterbeer, anyone?

That’s right, I spent the weekend at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, and I was struck over and over again about how much of the park is owed to the power of words – to authors.

Mmmmmm. Honeydukes!

Mmmmmm. Honeydukes!

Now I am not a big fan of theme park rides, those days are gone! But what Harry Potter fan doesn’t want to walk down the streets of Hogsmeade? I know I did! So it wasn’t too hard (we only made her beg for a year) for our daughter to convince us to take her down to Universal for a long weekend. (Let me give you a TIP: the second weekend in November is a GREAT weekend to visit this park. We paid for two nights in the hotel and got the third free, we also paid for two days in the parks and got the third free. Crowds were low, lines were short, and a new super-affordable dining meal card was newly available. )

Anyway, as a reader, and a writer, I have to admit that I fully enjoyed stepping into the world J.K. Rowling created while I shopped at Honeydukes, ate roasted chicken in the Three Broomsticks, drank Butterbeer, and even visited the restrooms where Myrtle moaned. It was fun to see words come alive. And while Hogsmeade was certainly the main attraction for me, it was only one area of the author-inspired park.

Hold on! I am checking my texts.

Hold on! I am checking my texts.

We visited Jurassic Park, the gargantuan creation of author Michael Crichton.

And took a walk through Seuss Landing, a world inspired by the crazy out-of-the-box words of Dr. Seuss. Here I am with the first eligible bachelor to attempt to hold hands with me Universal trip 1429in over 23 years.

I’m sure that my daughter, who spent a lot of time being photographed with many mini minions, and my husband, who rode more roller coasters in those three days than he probably had in a lifetime (due to my wimping out after the Norwegian Horntail experience) took different things away from the Universal experience. But I came away feeling awed by the power of words, and the amazing possibilities before us when we build worlds with them.

As I polish up my current work in progress, I will be asking myself: What changes can I make to insure that readers will want to step off the pages and into this world?

 

Universal trip 719

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inspiration Permission

In the last two weeks, I practically made myself at home over at Tara Lazar’s blog. I revealed two new covers for two new picture books and held a caption contest, and then I gave a math lesson for PiBoIdMo. I don’t want all my Nerdy Chicks (and Nerdy-Chicks-Supporters) to think I’ve forgotten about them, though. So I’ve been trying to think of something to share here in honor of PiBoIdMo.

Sometimes, inspirations come from from seemingly disparate places. That’s what happened here. I’ve managed to mash up the caption contest with a PiBoIdMo lesson.

There were a lot of great caption ideas for both ORANGUTANGLED and SNORING BEAUTY. I had to pick one winner, though, and that was Dawn Young with her very versatile entry, “Is this as awkward for you as it is for me?” (Works so well for both covers, no?)

BeFunky_snor beauty cover winner BeFunky_orangutangled winner.jpg

But like I said, there were so many wonderful ideas. Here are some more that stood out to me:

BeFunky_orangutangled cover collage

 

What was very cool was how so many different people looked the same pictures but came up with such different ideas for what the characters were saying, thinking, or feeling — and often, their ideas did not resemble my books AT ALL. And I realized that here was something that could help all the PiBoIdMo participants and writers in general.

I give you my permission to take inspiration from other books.

All the people who participated in the caption contest looked at a picture and, without any other information, allowed themselves to imagine who the characters were. But what each of them came up with was his or her own idea, not mine. And many of them are ideas that can be built on.

To be very clear, I’m not advocating stealing other authors’ ideas! (Please don’t go write a book about three orangutans tangled up instead of two!) But I can see the beginning of new, original ideas in the captions that I read. For example, “Is this as awkward for you as it is for me?” — could that be a starting point to brainstorm other awkward situations? Could one of those situations be the basis of a new book? I think so.

I’ve actually used a version of this exercise in schools when I’ve conducted writing workshops. When you look at a spread of a picture book, there is only so much dialogue in the actual text that accompanies a picture. But if you ask a classroom of kids to fill in what that extended conversation might sound like…it’s actually amazing how far they can take it. They can start with one image and a few lines of text and they can write an entire scene around it. (Teachers, what do you think? Have you ever tried something similar with your students?)

So, writers, PiBoIdMo participants, Nerdy Chicks: when you get stuck on your next idea, I hope you’ll think of this suggestion, and I hope it will get some of you un-stuck. But even if it doesn’t, I guarantee you’ll have fun — and sometimes that’s all we need to get us going again.

 

 

The Quotable Nerdy Character

A few weeks ago, I did a workshop on creating believable contemporary characters, and in the research process, I found a lot of inspirational quotes for writers — and readers. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”

― Ernest Hemingway

“Your source material is the people you know, not those you don’t know, but every character is an extension of the author’s own personality.”

― Edward Albee

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.”

― Mark Twain

“Characterization is an accident that flows out of action and dialogue.”

― Jack Woodford

Picture1“When you’re with your wife, you don’t say I love you to your wife every day but the ways you look at her and your actions are another way to communicate. Don’t focus on dialogue, only focus on what you’re expressing.”

― Michel Hazanavicius

“I tend to relate to a character in terms of the arc: what’s interesting is where he starts versus where he ends up .”

― Edward Norton

“If you’re writing about a character, if he’s a powerful character, unless you give him vulnerability I don’t think he’ll be as interesting to the reader.”

—Stan Lee

What do you think? Are you ready to pick up your pencil (or open up your laptop) and get creating?

 

REMINDER

If you haven’t already, please remember to check out The Busy Librarian’s podcast featuring ME and enter the newest Nerdy Chicks GIVEAWAY!

 

The Ultimate Lap Desk

IMG_20130717_092504My granddad was one of those men you’d call handy. If something needed to be fixed, he fixed it. If you wanted something, but couldn’t find it in the store, he built it, or made it, or jerry-rigged it. Sometimes I wonder what my writing career would be like without him.

When I am in a period of intense revision — like I am now — I print out my manuscript. Then I go over the pages with my favorite pen in my hand, my laptop in front of me, and a revision notebook beside me. And when I am doing this, I am sitting in a comfortable chair somewhere… not always at my house… with one of granddad’s creations. I call it the Ultimate Lap Desk. And I don’t know what I’d do without it.

My grandfather made it for his mother, my great grandmother,  because he couldn’t find a lap desk that she could use comfortably. She was probably approaching ninety at the time, and any desk that simply sat on her lap was not stable enough to hold a dinner plate, or a crossword puzzle. So he made one that would fit across the arms of her favorite chair.

Eventually, my mother ended up with it. I found it in a closet when I was in college and kind of …quietly acquired it. It was great for writing papers then, and it’s great for writing books now! Every book I’ve written, (those sold and unsold) has been composed, at least partially, on top of that desk.

The beauty of this lap desk it is that unlike the ones you can purchase, this one offers SPACE. Almost as much space as a real desk.  And it fits across the arms of almost any chair (excepting those gigantic armchairs that can fit two or three people.) And since it stores vertically, it doesn’t collect papers and other junk (like my other desk which is usually so cluttered I can’t really use it) !

My real desk after my last revision. Please don't look too closely! But it's too funny not to share. See why I rely on the lap desk?

My real desk after my last revision. Please don’t look too closely! But it’s too funny not to share. See why I rely on the lap desk?

I did an on-line search for lap desks and couldn’t find anything comparable. The are all fairly small. So after deciding that I didn’t have time to market a new, super-useful product, I decided to write a post about this one. Maybe one of you will have the spirit of entrepreneurship and decide to make these available for everyone. Whether you’re a writer, a worker of crossword puzzles, an artist, or a player of solitaire… this is a great thing to have around.

And if you’re handy… you can make one! Here are the dimensions. Mine is made from 1/4″ plywood that has been sanded and coated with poly (Actually, I’m pretty sure graddad used shellac), so the surface is fairly smooth.

Want to make your own? Here is is, plain and simple. Dimensions: 32" wide 18 1/4 " deep 1/4" thick 3 1/4" at deepest point of semicircle cutout

Want to make your own? Here is is, plain and simple.   Dimensions:
32″ wide
18 1/4 ” deep
1/4″ thick
3 1/4″ at deepest point of semicircle cutout

Don’t you want one of these? Well, whether you do or not, happy writing, or drawing, or playing solitaire, or doing whatever you do!

 

A note to our followers: With travel, and writing, it has been a slow July, but we have a great interview with an unusual giveaway planned to post soon! Also, thank you all for the many views and comments on last week’s post. It is still surreal for my family, but your commments meant a lot.  Kami

The Quotable Nerdy NJSCBWI

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the New Jersey Society of Children’s Book Writers and illustrators conference in Princeton, NJ. I will be posting more from the weekend, but here are some quotes that really inspired me from (mostly) chicks at the conference:

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“Listen—we writers are one. We all share a common goal—to tell the best story we possibly can. I strive to do that every day, and so do you. There is no divide.” Tara Lazar, author of The Monstore

“I get my ideas from living.” Peter Brown, creator of The Curious GardenChildren Make Terrible Pets and You Will Be My Friend!

“Reading books is fantastic homework.” Ame Dyckman, author of Boy + Bot SAMSUNG CSC

“Writing every day helps you build up a tolerance for it. Kind of like drinking every day.” Lauren Oliver, author of Before I Fall and the Delirium series

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“Like moving deck chairs on the Titanic.” Simone Kaplan of Picture Book People, on trying to change only words in a flawed manuscript

SAMSUNG CSC“If you want to be big, think big.” Joyce Wan, creator of You are my Cupcake and We Belong Together

“We are in the golden age of children’s non-fiction.” Betsy Bird, librarian and blogger extraordinaire

“I’m on muscle relaxants.” ANONYMOUS

Do you have any quotes from the conference that inspired you?

Let’s Get Visual…

I love art. I collect it. I pinterestattempt to create it. (I have just enough talent to get really frustrated by what I can’t draw. The thing is, I can always picture exactly what I WANT to draw in my head.) This is one of the reasons I think it’s fair to say I’m a visual learner. And from what I’ve been reading about retention and visual learning, it may be fair to say we all are.

I’m finding that this is the beauty of Pinterest. Wait! Don’t stop reading just because you don’t want to add another social media commitment to your already full day. You don’t HAVE to use Pinterest as a social media tool. You don’t even have to connect with anyone. If you want, you can use it just for yourself, to help you with your writing, your research, your cooking, your party planning… whatever! You already know this? Well, okay, you can stop reading now… but only if you’re sure you already know it. 😉

I started a Pinterest account a while ago just to look at the cool ideas that everyone else had.  But I didn’t REALLY start using it until I realized I should be using it for research. Before, if I found great articles about writing, I’d save the URL in a word document, then never return to it again because often the sequence of numbers, letters, and symbols in a URL doesn’t jog my memory enough for me to recall what the article was about in the first place. Now, when I find good articles about writing, they get pinned to my ALL THINGS AUTHOR board.  Here’s a glimpse of what that looks like. And you can visit the actual board HERE.

screen shot

If you aren’t already familiar with Pinterest, you can see in the screen shot above how each article is filed with a picture, and also a short written description. It’s amazing how much this helps me find the right article quickly. Keeping these articles in one public place also allows me to share relevant articles with my writing students and other writers.

A lot of writers are using Pinterest for research. I have joined their ranks. Take a look at the screen shot of another one of my Pinterest boards. Bet you can guess one of the themes in my work in progress now…

cupcake board

The boards on Pinterest are like bulletin boards. Places to hang (pin) your favorite images and articles… things you like and want to revisit. I’m keeping several boards right now. Some just for fun, some for research, some as places to hold information I might find valuable for my career. You don’t have to be an author, of course, to benefit from Pinterest. I know people who use it as a place to collect recipes, home improvement ideas, and teaching ideas. A search bar makes it easy to find pins on topics you like, but you can also add your own pins by pasting in URLs of sites you want to revisit.

Making the decision not to use Pinterest as a social media tool has been freeing for me. I have fewer than 10 followers, and while anyone is welcome to follow me, I don’t attempt to amass more. (By the way, you can create secret boards that the public can’t see if you want.)

If you decide to start using Pinterest, keep in mind that the links to websites will only work as long as the website is active. If you find an article with absolutely crucial information on it, you may want to save it another way as well.

If you’re a fan of visual connections, you need to spend a few hours exploring Pinterest! Maybe I’ll even see you THERE!