The Sarah Dessen Writers

So did you watch the video? No? Come back after you do. 

You’ve seen it? Now, tell me, miss Dessen is like meant to be a YA writer, right? However, if you watch her other videos, especially the one where she tells how she gets into writing YA, you’ll find out that it was not the market that she was aiming for. She said that she didn’t want to write YA.

This post is not about hating miss Dessen. If you already know me, I am obsess with her books. I’ll buy them the moment they hit the shelves, and you’ll see how miss Dessen now loves the YA community, and she knew it was her destiny all along.

What I am trying to say here is there are aspiring writers right now who are like miss Sarah Dessen. How?

I’ve been in the creative writing program of California State University of Northridge for almost a year now. This semester I am enrolled in a narrative writing class. On the first day of class, we introduced ourselves by saying our names and the genre that we write. Sadly, I was the only YA writer there. Even the the professor said she had not read any YA.

The class is halfway the semester now. We have been critiquing each other’s work of fiction. And you know what I’ve noticed? Most of my classmates are writing stories where the main character is a child or a teenager.

I guess there are writers out there who are like miss Dessen– they claim not wanting to write YA, but once they experience the beauty and magic of the YA community, they will be more than glad to be a YA writer.

Advertisements

The Uninspired Writer: How a Creative Writing Major Discourages Me to Write

There is a big similarity between Etienne St. Clair of Ms. Stephanie Perkins‘ Anna and The French Kiss and I. I am not talking about his gorgeous looks and smooth charisma. I am talking about not driving. As a consequence, I travel two hours via bus to go to school. It is very difficult, but since CSUN promised me an inspiring campus to study at, I create the sacrifice of spending 4 hours inside the bus almost everyday (2 hours going to school + 2 hours going home)

I am a junior in California State of Northridege or CSUN with a major on creative writing. Why did I choose that when I can easily attend other universities closer to my apartment? The answer is simple. I always wanted to be a YA novelist. When a representative talked to me about how CSUN had the ability to give me a Bachelor of Arts degree in creative writing unlike other school that I was considering to attend, I was beyond intrigued. She showed me this promising English program with a promised that CSUN English professor were there to inspire me everyday, but these last two weeks, my english professor made me feel like I was wasting my time in CSUN.

ENG 300 is a required class for me to complete my degree. I was actually happy to go to that class, because it requires reading contemporary American short stories and writing journals as part of the homework everyday. We were on our last two three weeks before the finals. We were gonna start reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Sir Jonathan Safran Foer. I started reading the novel early, for I was assigned to do a presentation on it. Before dismissing the class, our professor said that there were critics who said that Oskar Schell, a 9-year-old main character of the book, was a unrealistic character. She said it was bullshit (unfortunately, that was the exact word she used), and the she asked us who already started the novel. I raised my hand, and she asked me how was it. I gave her my honest opinion as person with a book blogger spirit on my blood. I said, “I believe Oskar as a narrator but I am having a hard time with her voice, especially he is a child narrator. I have read a lot of children’s book, so I know a child’s voice when I read one. He is believable as a character but the author’s writing style is really hard to get into.” My professor looked at me with a crease between her two eyes. She said that the book is not a children’s book. I said that I know that, but a child narrator is a child narrator, so the author should be able to deliver that. The class ended with me looking forward to still finish the book. 

But as I flipped the pages, my struggle to get into the author’s writing style was getting harder and harder. I know that my opinions about books are not universal facts. I believe that what is true for me about a book is not true for the others.

So I finished the book. Because it contains real pictures, I decided to create an introduction using Sir Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Ms. Tracy Holczer’s The Secret Hum of a Daisy, so I could say how a child’s traumatic experience was now very well portrayed in fiction. When I showed the books to the class, she kept interrupting me to skip the books. I was baffled to know that presentations could be interrupted when the professor did not like the way you started. I hid my shock with a smile, and continued.

The next meeting, we were still discussing the book. A classmate mentioned that the pictures in the book are not well placed. He said the pictures threw him off, because they were placed like very randomly. I backed him up by saying that I had the same experience. I mentioned that Ms. Morgan Matson’s Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour used the same method of fictionalizing real pictures. I continued by saying that a lot of YA authors have accomplished a good job by using real pictures too, but Sir Foer did not do a very good job in his book. The discussion continued and we talked about children’s traumatic experiences. I said that kids become very curious in fiction whenever they experienced something traumatizing. To back up my claim, I used the assigned text and Ms. Holczer’s book. I guess that was when she blew up. She told me that YA and children’s books are merely design for entertainment. They are not designed for reader response analysis. 

I just nod and nod. I was in no position to argue, especially I was ready to cry. My heart was ripping into pieces. I was there knowing my professors would inspire me everyday, but there she was making me feel like I was only wasting my time in CSUN. After the class, I excused myself and went to the restroom to cry.

I believe in the magic of YA and MG literature, but for that one moment. I felt my whole being was stepped on.

Maybe CSUN is not really for me. Maybe I don’t need that BA degree. Maybe what I need was an MFA. But right now, I really don’t know. I am laughing about this, but when I am alone in my room… Before sleep visits me, the memory of how she threw those words about how YA and MG literature are nothing but mere entertainment, I cry.          

Reading Time = Gold: How To Find Reading Time on A Super Busy Schedule

“How do you find the time to read?” 

I would be a billionaire by now if I get paid a penny every time I hear that. I am a full-time student, a part-time bookseller at Barnes & Noble, and I still love my social life. 

But trust me, I still find to read. How do I do that? 

We don’t know that there are many times that are perfect for reading. Once, however, we become aware of when those reading times are, you will  reading again like a wild man. 

Before everything else, I must say to go back on track of reading faster, eReaders are your friend. And you don’t need an eReader to take advantage of the digital age; the eReader apps (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) are free. Grab your tablet or smartphone and get those apps. Remember: if you don’t like eReaders, you can still follow my tips with the use of paper books  (Trust me, I still prefer paper books). 

1. After you wake up 

  

Sleep is really hard to find if you are a busy person so cherishing every minute of it is very crucial. However, waking up 15-30 minutes early is very worth it. Remember we love reading, and for love to happen, a little bit of sacrifice is necessary. You might be a bit cranky, but once you see whether Harry will catch that Golden Snitch to win the quidditch tournament against Slytherin is totally worth it. 

2. Make commuting your best friend

Whether you drive or not, going to work, school, or basically just anywhere can quench your bookworm thirst. 

If you drive: set a solid time when you are going to leave the house. For example, if you leave at exactly 8:00am, and you are done with all your morning routine at 7:45am, steal that 15 minutes; you can read 5-8 pages with that time. Just be aware of the time. Remember, reading can absorb you.– who wants to be late? Make looking at your watch every 2 pages a habit.

If you don’t drive:  you have two options. 

  • If you carpool, take advantage of this. Read along the way. If there’s only two of you inside the car, tell your driver friend that you are going to read (opening your book instantly is not a good behavior). If there is more than 2 inside the car, still tell your friends. 
  • If you take public transportation (train, bus, cab): it means you are going to have a lot of time to read. Public transportation is your friend. You can read without any disturbance. Just be aware, so you won’t miss your stop. Make looking where you are every two pages. 

3. While waiting for your next class/shift to start

 

Traffic varies everyday. Classes sometimes end a little bit early. Once you claim your favorite seat for your next class, open that tablet or book and read a couple of pages. There’s 10 minutes left before your shift starts? That is a gift; take advantage of it. It is not much, but hey let’s take what we can get. 

4. Eat & Read

Take advantage of your tablets’ or eReaders’ stand. Eating is relaxing, but guess what– so is reading. We eat at least three times a day. If your average eating time is about 10 minutes, then that is 3×10= 30 minutes. Woah. That is a chapter. 

5. Before you sleep

We already know that reading is relaxing. I always find myself waking up super great when I read before sleeping. What I do is I read until I can’t take it anymore. However, I still set a limit. If it is already 12:00am, I will go to sleep with the chapter finish or unfinish. 

There are many times that are perfect for reading, and we always take it for granted. Oen your eyes. Take advantage of them.   

 

   

Confessions of a College YA Reader

10155545_10205012008173475_1988721377259359644_n

It’s no longer new to say that one of the most stressful part of your life is being in college. People who know me surely rolled their eyes as they read the first sentence. I am an English major focusing in creative writing. So I should be having the best semester of all time. Or is there something off when I said that? I love my major. I love being a student, but even though I am so close to doing what I love, there are times that school hinders me from saying I am 100% happy as a student.

For starters, I am more than happy that most of my homework require tons of reading. This is similar to getting paid to drink your favorite Starbucks drink. But college is different. Most of the times, I am reading a book that I don’t even want to read. There are many nights that I look at my YA book on top of my bedside table with watery eyes. I would release air of exasperation through my nose as I put myself on my study desk and start reading an assigned book for the semester. Again this is the time that you will find yourself raising an eyebrow and asking, “I thought you love reading?” And to answer that, yes, I do love reading, but let’s hit rewind and remind you my definition of reading.

Reading, for me, is the most divine hobby (I hate myself for using that word though). It is the only time I find peace, be somebody else, and allow ecstasy to fill my veins. I must also mention that reading relaxes me. 

1934232_1178462875311_4465881_n

My friend took a stolen picture of me reading Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief during a stressful school day.

YA novels have that certain effect on me. The characters just reveal themselves to me, and I fall in love with them almost all the time. However, for college reading, the magic is not there. Digging inside the page of the book is mandatory for school reading. I need to be on my A-game to get a passing grade for the next essay. As I flip the pages of that book for school reading, I need to drill into my brain that I need to find something, so I have something to use as evidence for that essay. Because of that I am always asking the questions:

  • Did I miss something on that last paragraph?
  • Can I make an argument out of this quote?
  • Do I need to reread this chapter, so I can see what the professor wants me to see?
  • Is there something I need to analyze before looking at this scene?

For college, reading novels becomes exhausting. It drains me unlike reading for fun.

The very first time I stepped on California State Northridge, I thought I was finally closer to my dreams and that I would be closer to YA books since I want to be a YA novelist. The first semester (Fall 2014) gave me the exact opposite of my expectations. I need to put aside my YA novels and read books that are not even close to YA. I also read non-YA books, but I just can’t find the feeling that I am one step closer to my dreams with my classes.

I guess I am being unfair since I am all basing this emotional burst on my first semester, but there is another chance. This Spring semester 2015, I am taking a Young Adult Literature class. The textbooks are beyond awesome.

10868235_10205088078955197_7524830121590862112_n

Those are the required reading for my YA class. Even though the pressure that it is still “required” is still there, at least the fact that those are YA books, gives me a light and fuzzy feeling inside. This class is the fuel to that spark inside my heart.

I hope and I pray that my next post relating to school involves how thankful I am for being a better YA novelist.