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!
“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
“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.”
What do you think? Are you ready to pick up your pencil (or open up your laptop) and get creating?
What is Chicklet Chick Lit?
Chick lit is genre fiction which addresses issues of modern womanhood, often humorously and lightheartedly. Chick lit for chicklets is pretty much the same thing but geared specifically to the interests of a child or young adult audience. The main character of Chick Lit is always a strong female who bucks authority to follow her dreams.
What qualifies as Chicklet Chick Lit?
Not every book with a female main character would be considered chicklet chick lit — this is important to keep in mind. Some books just happen to have female main characters. In this very limited case, just being a girl is not enough.
In Chicklet Chick Lit, the main character’s obstacles and challenges must be specific to gender. The chick lit heroine is very aware of her world and the details of this world will deeply affect her choices/actions.
Let me introduce you to my friends…
In addition to the main character, Chick Lit is often populated by strong secondary characters. Here are some of the archetypes commonly found in Chick Lit for Chicklets:
Now you all know more about writing Chick Lit for Chicklets — we hope you try your hand at this fabulous genre!
(If you attended the Nerdy Chicks’ workshop at NESCBWI and would like a copy of the entire PowerPoint, please fill out the form below or email Sudipta or Kami directly)
A couple years ago, Kat Yeh and I were attending the same writer’s conference. I was in the middle of a conversation with a well-respected agent, when Kat walked by. Immediately, the person I was speaking to went silent and his eyes followed Kat as she walked away. When he finally remembered that he was supposed to be speaking to me, he turned back, shrugged, and said, “She’s very striking.” The funny thing is that this guy had no idea that, as striking as Kat is from across the room, she is so much more so in person. Kat has a warm and endearing personality that has you laughing and feeling like you’ve known her for years, even when you first meet. This explains why I’ve spilled so many secrets to her despite our relatively short friendship!
Kat is a graduate of Villanova University and she worked in sports marketing for many years before discovering she really is a wonderfully talented writer who needs to be putting books into the world for the rest of us to read. She is the author of the picture books YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME (Random House Books for Young Readers) and THE MAGIC BRUSH A story of love, family and Chinese Characters (Walker Books for Young Readers) and the forthcoming novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (Little Brown BYR, coming 2014). She’s also the recipient of the 2012 SCBWI Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.
Thank you, Kat, for joining us today on Nerdy Chicks Rule. Let’s get started! If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I actually think I received the perfect piece of advice already at that age (though I was not really able to figure out how to use it till much later) A dear and wise-beyond-her -years friend gave me a little card with a tiny painting and the quote: “Being myself includes taking risks with myself, taking risks with my behavior so that I can see how it is I want to be” I think we were 13 or 14 at the time. She knew I was struggling and feeling stuck, so she made the card for me. I still have it.
And I wish I could honestly say I have other advice that I would give myself, but I kind of feel that all that stumbling and confusion was sort of necessary. Even the big plastic glasses and ill-advised outfit choice for my first 9th grade dance (brown cowl neck sweater and full-length a-line plaid skirt). I wouldn’t change any of it. But maybe I’d just go back and give myself a big hug.
If it makes you feel better, I never even went to my 9th grade dance (though had I gone, I’m sure my wardrobe choice would have been equally unfortunate). Let’s move on…You’re one of my favorite authors!
Funny, you’re one of mine 🙂
My favorite things to read…Books that lush and literary and brave and unapologetic and a little bit strange and completely committed to the world they create: example anything by Franny Billingsley.
How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
I don’t think it is necessarily about what is being published today as much as it is about allowing a pretty free reign. Showing a lot of options, but then letting them make their own reading choices – and THEN being there to talk. Answer questions (or even better come up with more questions together!). Start discussions. Think of alternate endings. Be stumped. Be frustrated. Be in love. Then wonder and wonder and talk about why you both are feeling all these things. I love the George Carlin quote: “Don’t just teach your children to read…Teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”
That is a terrific quote from a fairly smart (and nerdy!) man. But we’re called Nerdy Chicks Rule, so let’s re-focus on girls…Tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.
Is it too typical to say Jo March? I don’t think that I was ever as brave as she was as a teen, but I wanted to be. And of course, I always connected to her passion for reading and her utter desperate Need To Be a Writer – as well as her big feet and awkwardness and temper and fierce love and mad scribbling.
Your feet are not big! (Well, at least, not that big.) Moving on, though…What’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?
I love, love spending hours in used book stores or in the used book section of my local indy. Looking for old art books. Hidden overlooked early editions of favorites. I love finding books with quirky titles and wonderful content. It’s like a treasure hunt. I recently found a ratty copy of a book titled, LOVE & DROLLERY – A SELECTION OF AMATORY, MERRY AND SATIRICAL VERSE OF THE 17TH CENTURY for $7. Happiness.
That was totally going to be the title of my next book! I guess that’s why I should do more market research, especially in used book stores. You’ve convinced me to follow in your (normal-sized) footsteps! Now, what is one of your favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick?
easy: without a doubt, it is only when being absolutely myself (and therefore, embracing the nerdy in me) that I have been able to Find & Be Found and Get & Be Gotten by like-minded souls who have become life friends.
Now, for the fun part: if someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?
That’s hard. As a mom, I tend not to think about spending money on myself. I’d probably buy drinks and a load of appetizers somewhere yummy (and hopefully with music) where a friend and I could have long, leisurely talk-ish time together.
And, finally, can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?
For several months now it’s been baby arugula. I know – it’s not glamorous or decadent, but it makes me crazy. All dark and peppery and perfect.
I can’t imagine there’s anyone in the world who doesn’t know who Karma Wilson is. After all, she’s a bestselling author and all-around interesting person. Who, by the way, trains in Mixed Martial Arts and calls a dog, a cat, and a chicken her pets. But just in case you’ve been living under a rock and have never heard of Bear Snores On, Frog in the Bog, or Hogwash, here’s a little about Karma.
Karma never really thought about being a professional writer because, growing up, it seemed so boring. But that’s only because her mother was a professional writer – and who wants to do what Mom does? (By the way, the answer to that is usually EVERYONE. But only secretly.) But as children all over the world are grateful for every day, Karma eventually came around and started writing books for kids. The first one(Bear Snores On) came out in 2002. Since then, she’s written 30 books which have collectively received numerous state and national awards, been translated into dozens of languages, and a few have made an appearance on the New York Times bestseller list.
I wanted to interview Karma for this blog because not only is she a great example of a Nerdy Chick, but many, many years ago, she became one of my KidLit idols (that’s a secret, too. I don’t want to look like a lame fangirl). So, please welcome Karma to Nerdy Chicks Rule!
So, Karma, you’re an award-winning author! What are your favorite things to read?
Fantasy is numero uno and always has been, followed by historical fiction with plucky characteres, and sci-fi if it’s original.
How do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)?
Oh no, not sure how to answer this. I don’t think all of them are for one thing.
(I agree with you. But do go on.)
A lot of pop fiction is depicting girls as helpless princesses waiting for a hero, or bullies, or cliquish mean girls. I like books that help give girls a voice, that help them see themselves as capable people able to think and reason. Laurie Halse Anderson’s work, for instance. I think that for me it’s the books that are written about genuine, strong characters set in a good story that will automatically set the right examples for girls. And I’m not the kind who thinks that only girl characters can set examples for girl readers. I love strong boy characters and think there is a gap in fiction that appeals to boys and girls. A timeless treasure like Freak the Mighty can go a long ways to teaching anybody how to be a more capable, compassionate, thinking person–boy or girl. A book depicting a boy character who values women and treats them as equals can help a girl recognize a good guy. Good stories, good characters–the rest falls into place.
Those are really good points. I think people are coming around to the idea that there shouldn’t be “girl books” and “boy books.” But speaking of girl characters…tell us about a fictitious nerdy chick you admire and why you admire her.
Anne of Green Gables. I admire her for taking her fantasies and not just using them as an escape from her harsh reality, but to improve herself as a person. She learned from her mistakes, she grew as an individual, she was caring, unique and plucky. I love her!
Teaching my children to value words and literature. All three are excellent readers who enjoy words and writing. WIN!
In fact, I want to give a thanks to my kids, Michael, David and Chrissy for continuing to be my most successful endeavor….
That’s not only fabulous, it’s something that parents everywhere should try to emulate. Brava! How about this: what’s something else you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun?
I like to take pictures of food and post them on facebook. Yep, I’m one of those! lol. To be fair, I like and comment on other people’s food photos.
Mmmmm. There’s nothing wrong with that. Speaking of food, Can you tell us one thing you buy at the grocery store that you cannot live without?
Coffee. And toilet paper. In that order? Oh, just one. Sorry! lol
OMG, I just snorted my Pepsi all over my desk! You are too funny! If someone gave you $75 and you could only spend it on you, what would you do with it?
Buy a special treat from a local artist or craftsman. That way it would be a gift to them too! Probably pottery, which I love.
I’m starting to get goosebumps. I love pottery, too! Could we be long-lost sisters? (Wait, too fangirl-y? I’ll stop.)
Better today than yesterday.
I’m not sure we could have ended on a better note than that – those may become words I have to live by. Thank you so much, Karma, for joining us.
If you want to learn more about Karma, find her on the web at www.karmawilson.com. There you can find great resources for teachers, parents and lovers of children’s books.
T.S. Ferguson is an Associate Editor with Harlequin TEEN, where he acquires and edits commercial fiction for teen girls across all genres, and has the privilege of working with authors such as Kady Cross and Amanda Sun. Prior to Harlequin, T.S. worked for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, where he worked with bestselling and award-winning authors such as Jennifer Brown, Cris Beam, Sherman Alexie, Sara Zarr, and Julie Anne Peters. When he’s not reading or feeding his addiction to karaoke, T.S. is working on a Young Adult novel of his very own.
Today, T.S. is answering Three Questions about Nerdy Chicks and Reading…
1) What should today’s Nerdy Chick be reading?
That’s a tough question, since Nerdy Chicks cover such a wide spectrum of individuals with diverse interests. Obviously YA. The Nerdy Chick should be unafraid to read teen novels. They’re for everyone now.
For the Nerdy Girl who enjoys fantasy, the Graceling trilogy by Kristin Cashore is great, as is anything by Tamora Pierce (a classic YA fantasy author) or Cinda Williams Chima.
For those who like paranormal with an element of romance, my favorites are Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series and Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series.
And for the Nerdy Chick who enjoys a great contemporary, some of my favorites include Sarah Ockler, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian.
And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some great Harlequin authors to you Nerdy Chicks. Steampunk fans should check out Kady Cross’s The Girl with the Steel Corset. If you love romance, check out Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry. And if you love Julie Kagawa or Richelle Mead, you should look for Amanda Sun’s upcoming debut novel, Ink (July 2013), a paranormal adventure set in Japan and involving ancient Japanese mythology.
2) How can a Nerdy Chick make her writing stand out?
The things that stand out the most to me when I’m reading through my submissions is a unique voice and a plot that feels different. Be aware of the market and what’s already out there, don’t try to follow trends but rather focus on writing the best book you can write. Don’t be afraid of the revision process or afraid of other peoples’ edits, and even though I know it can be tough sometimes, don’t rush to submit your manuscript to editors and agents before it’s ready just because you can’t wait to be published. Writing that has been polished will always stand out over writing that needs work.
3) Who is a fictitious Nerdy Chick you admire and why?
Roald Dahl’s Matilda has always been a Nerdy Chick I loved and she is someone worth emulating. Not only is she incredibly smart, self-taught, and a lover of libraries, but she survives a neglectful and abusive home life and an abusive school environment, isn’t afraid to stand up for herself and the people she loves, and shows bravery in the face of danger. And she has telekinesis, which is pretty darn cool too.
Thank you, T.S., for your thoughtful answers! If you want to hear more of T.S.’s brilliant thoughts, follow him on Twitter: @TeeEss
The Next Big Thing Blog Hop celebrates what writers are working on or what they have coming up next. Welcome to my stop!
I was tagged by fellow Apocalypse Lynne Kelly author of Chained. See what her next big thing is HERE. I’ve been working on a couple of projects over the last year, but in November I dropped all of them for my current work in progress. I’m excited to answer questions about it today!
1: What is the working title of your book? THE BOY PREDICTION (Notes and Observations of Tabitha Reddy)
2: Where did the idea come from for the book? The idea for this book came from response to my first book. The readers wanted to read more funny books about middle school relationships. Since I felt like Kara’s (the MC for my first book) story had already been told, this book is told from the point of view of Tabbi, Kara’s best friend. Kara will still be in it though!
3: What genre does your book come under? Humorous middle grade.
4: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I’ve never thought about that! I think someone like a young Selena Gomez would make a good Tabbi, but
she’d have to cut her hair and dye it blonde!
5: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? The Boy Prediction is a funny book about a girl who tries to predict the identity of her future boyfriend by using fortune cookies, cootie catchers, and even an algebra class project to point her in the direction of the one.
6: Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency? This book is going to be published by Scholastic, like my first book. It is represented by the wonderful Rosemary Stimola.
7: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I’m still working on it …but hoping to finish soon. I think it will take me about three months.
8: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? A lot of people compared my last book to The Dork Diaries, but I think this is because they are both funny books told from the point of view of a middle school girl, and both have drawings. Stylistically, the books are different. I can see why people who like funny books about girls would like both.
9: Who or what inspired you to write this book? My middle school and high school diaries inspired me to write my first book, so in a way they inspired this book too. But another source of information comes from my children. I had one child in middle school when I wrote my first book and my youngest child is in middle school now. Hearing their stories about what they deal with on a day to day basis helps me bring humor into the stories.
10: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? A cupcake that causes a surprising break-up, a disaster that results in deep friendship, and crazy scenes and sketches!
Thanks for checking out what I’m working on! Be sure to stop by the blogs of these fabulous authors who allowed me to tag them for next week: Anne Marie Pace, Kathy Erskine, Amy Carol Reeves, and also back here for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. See what they’re working on Wednesday, February 27 !
Back in 2011 when I was tossing around ideas for this blog with now co-blogger Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, I was also going through a family crisis. One of my children had been in and out of the hospital for six months and there was no real end to this pattern in sight. Additionally, I had a book coming out on the first day of 2012 that I hadn’t had time to publicize, and I felt the need and desire to start a new blog. I remember telling Sudipta, “I want to start a blog but it has to be something I can handle.”
Choosing a format that showcases smart, accomplished women and also highlights quotes from women past and present ended up being what I could handle. I have enjoyed every interview and have been inspired myself by some amazing quotes while seeking out quotes to share with you.
But this format also offered a buffer. A buffer between the world and my emotions. Because at that point in my life, I felt I was hanging on to my emotions by a thread, and I was afraid that even putting them out there a little might cause me to unravel. Of course at that point, I wasn’t completely aware that this was what I was doing.
When Sudipta came on board in 2012 she wrote a few posts themed What Happens in High School Stays in High School. We had great response to those posts! I think this is because Sudipta shared feelings that our audience could connect to. We had a similar response to my subsequent post, Why I Went Into the Woods, which details the physical and emotional need to get away every now and then to achieve focus.
The human experience is so varied and vast, that no two of us share the same pasts, but we’ve all had feelings of joy and sadness, anger and love. Understanding this, as writers, also helps our creations.
The first time editor extraordinaire Patti Lee Gauch critiqued my manuscript at a Highlights Foundation workshop she wrote of my main character,“How does she FEEL?” in the margins about five times on every page. I had offered a good plot, but hadn’t given readers a means to connect to my character emotionally. I’ve had to go back and flesh out my characters’ emotions on every manuscript I’ve completed. But at least I know to do that now!
Now that things are much better for my child, getting back in touch with those bottled in feelings doesn’t seem so scary. Sudipta and I have a lot of ideas about how to move forward with Nerdy Chicks Rule. We will keep interviewing smart women and we’ll keep bringing you inspirational quotes, but one thing we also want to add more posts about experiences… and how they make us feel!
*This summer I wrote about using feelings to help readers connect with writing over at Stephanie Scott’s blog. Check it out HERE.
*If you are a writer inspired to add feeling to your work, or a teacher working with students to make their work more colorful, check out the Emotion Thesaurus.
I went into the woods because a house pulls on your brain. It demands things of you. It wants you to use its kitchen, then clean it up. It wants you to use its bathroom, then clean it up. It wants you to dust and vacuum, to sort and put away. It is a demanding creature and I don’t think I can ever satisfy it. So every now and then… I leave it.
When I can, I leave it for the hills of Pennsylvania, where a quiet cabin awaits me. The cabin is giving and forgiving, it wants nothing in return. Down the hill from my cabin is a staffed kitchen full of smiling folks who cook and clean. They are better than House Elves. Because of them, I do not have to look at dirty pots and pans. I do not have to think about meal preparation. All I have to think about is what I want to think about, which is writing.
For me, this is true freedom. Each time I come here, I leave with well written chapters and renewed energy for writing. I leave with new ideas and refurbished old ones. But while a cabin can offer you escape, and freedom, it cannot love you. Which is Why I Always Go Back Home to the demanding house that holds dust and dirty dishes… family and love.
* * *
I wrote the above while attending the Highlights Unworkshop in October of 2012, intending to post it as soon as I got
home. But one thing after another distracted me. And now, as I work on a novel I was contracted to write since returning home from that unworkshop, I am wishing for the focus that being away brings!
The sink is full of dirty dishes. The laundry waits impatiently. But I am writing anyway today. And I am happy. Whether at home, or away from it all, I hope you are too.
Nerdy Chick interviews return next week!
In honor of PiBoIdMo (you do know what that is, don’t you?), have we got a treat for you. The fabulously nerdy and brilliantly fabulous Tara Lazar is joining us today for a special bonus interview. Let’s hear what this Nerdy Chick has to say…
I’ve known Tara for several years through NJ-SCBWI. Not only is she a great writer and a super person, she’s also as into shoes and fashion as I am. Tara’s first picture book, The Monstore is forthcoming from Aladdin in June 2013, with two more picture books following soon after. She has inspired hundreds of picture book authors with a program she created called PiBoIdMo or Picture Book Idea Month. Visit her blog (http://taralazar.com/piboidmo/)to read more about it… or to join up!
Thanks for joining us Tara! We’ll start off with a question we ask everyone: If you could give your middle school or high school self one piece of advice, what would it be? Baggy pants and permed hair is not a good look.
I remember that look! At least we can say it looked better on the chicks than the dudes! You’re a professional writer – can you share some of your favorite things to read? I love short stories. I subscribe to One Story and I buy the Greatest American Short Stories anthology every year. But I also read a lot of novels, both for adults and kids. I prefer quirky stories with a sprinkling of magic—nothing too fantastical or surreal, just enough magic so it’s still plausible. And who can forget picture books? I read at least two hours every day.
Wow. That’s a lot of reading, but everyone says reading makes us better writers. Since you are so well read, how do you see the books that are being published today as helping to empower girls to be smart (or, as we like to call it, nerdy)? When I was growing up, I only remember Judy Blume books as speaking to me directly as an adolescent girl. Now there are hundreds of books aimed at young girls’ unique experiences: having an autistic sibling, losing a parent, wanting to excel in a talent, being a super-genius, coming from a poor family, dealing with bullies… The choices are endless. There’s a book to ease concerns over every embarrassing and mysterious dilemma inside every girl. She can feel confident knowing she’s not alone, giving her the courage to be herself.
I agree. Thankfully, there are more books than ever for girls these days. Besides reading, what’s something you like to do that might be considered a little bit nerdy, but is actually really fun? Teaching! I love to teach new writers; I enjoy sharing my knowledge. I get a kick when I see their faces light up in an “aha” moment.
I also love studying rocks and minerals, Hubble space telescope images, literature of the 1920’s, and Discover Magazine. I wanted to be an archeologist when I was a teen. C’mon, discovering buried treasure for a living? Awesome!
Do you have a favorite achievements that you can credit to being a nerdy chick? I was on the high school physics team. We even had a cheer: P-H-Y-S-I-C-S, physics, physics, yes, yes, YES! (OK, I didn’t say it was a good cheer.) I also scored leading roles in my HS plays and directed the senior year play. I was a drama geek, too. This was BEFORE “High School Musical” and “Glee”, when it was really uncool. But I didn’t care, I loved it.
Hahaha! There’s probably a reason the physics club isn’t the cheer squad, right? Thanks again for showing us your nerdy side! And may this be the biggest PiBoIdMo ever!