Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What I Didn't Know

Friendships are always something I've taken very seriously, maybe too seriously.  That's really why I started writing.  I wanted to figure out a few things about me.  What I didn't know, was that my friendships show me most of what I need to learn.  And those who truly understand me are rare.  And that's okay.  So, below, I've included a recent interview.  Via my website, The Aha Moment Tour contacted me, asking if I would participate.  I dragged Sera Rivers along, since, well...she's a friend who GETS me and we were spending the whole week together at a workshop.  Hope you enjoy!  And if you vote on the website, it COULD be made into a commercial!

And if you were wondering...YES!  I did look at her like that when I met her!  :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Reviewer Angst

© Mietitore |
I learned to read at four years old, thanks to my big sister.

And I still love to read.

Until I started writing, I finished a book, no matter how much I hated it.

And now, I'm reviewing books.

Not all books are great.  Some aren't even good.

Up until this point, I've chosen NOT to review them, but I can't realistically keep doing that.  I want to, but I also know I need to be honest to be credible.

But it HURTS!!

As a writer, I know how much work goes into every book.  Story and characters are part of the heart and soul of the writer.  So, how do I say it's terrible when I feel really bad about it?

Any suggestions would be helpful.  I've been reading other blogs and have some ideas-tact, grace and honesty is what I've seen.  I plan to use all three and hope for the best.

How have you faced writing a negative review?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inspired by The Glen

Last week I immersed myself in the world of writing.  I didn't have to go far.  Lucky for me, The Glen East Workshop came to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Ma-practically my own back yard. 

Every morning, we had a three hour workshop on Young Adult Fiction-where we critiqued each other's manuscripts with the one and only Sara Zarr.  OH YEAH!!  

And now, I'm back to reality.  But as I return, I'm integrating one small piece at a time.  So, I'm writing a letter to my main character.

Dear Loredonna,

As I your writer, I think you should know how frustrated I am.  Please don't take it personally.  You're growing and so am I.  You are making me crazy!!  One minute the words from you flow so easily and the next I feel I'm creating only crap.  I am aware this is normal, thanks to my writer friends, but I'd really appreciate it if you'd cooperate.  So, here's a song dedicated to you that really explains what I'm feeling:


Lorettajo Kapinos, the author of your life

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Picture from
Penguin Group
ISBN 9780142407325 
224 pages 
Apr 2006  
14 - AND UP years
Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully 
constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

Description:  Speak is told from the point of view (POV) of a girl starting high school: Melinda Sordino.  Using first person POV means the narrator has to provide all the details of description.  In all the reading I've done, I've found it amazing at how many authors can accomplish this seamlessly.  Laurie Halse Anderson is one such author.  Not only do I see what Melinda sees, but I can feel it, taste it, hear it and I don't feel overwhelmed with extra stuff. I particularly love the way Melinda uses art to talk in context of life and learning.  It was a great way to really showcase all that was going on inside her head.  And though this book was first published in 1999, in no way did it feel dated.  (Score: 10/10)

Narrative:  Laurie Halse Anderson uses a form of narrative I admire.  The paragraphs are short and spaced apart.  This setup alone makes me subconsciously feel more in tune with the personality of the story and the character.  But the words themselves come straight from the head of Melinda.  It's authentic with a voice that stayed with me long after I finished the book. And miraculously, she covers an entire school year without ever letting the story lag or move too fast. (Score: 10/10)  

Dialogue:  I'm not quite sure how she did this, but the author used a rather unique form of dialogue that I fell in love with.  Instead of the typical layout, much of the dialogue was in a scripted format.  This too added to the feeling in the book.  I imagine it was difficult to write this way because the author loses the ability to communicate body language.  Her words had to speak for themselves. And the did, in a big way.  Not all the dialogue was done this way, some was buried in with narrative, but it kept it interesting.  (Score; 10/10)

Characterization:  Speak's characters were all engaging and multi-dimensional.  I admire the way Laurie Halse Anderson was able to make Melinda troubled without being pathetic or whiny.  She was real and in pain, but at the same time strong.  That's really hard to do!  I looked for stereotypes, just because I always do, and really found none.  There are generalizations, yes, but I think that's so true in any book-but they didn't feel forced or faked.  I also really liked the way characters came in and out of Melinda's life-this made it feel more real to me.   (Score: 10/10)

Resolution:  My favorite aspect of realistic fiction is the resolution.  Often, the climax is so subtle that I barely notice it's coming...or maybe I don't want to admit it.  But Speak was like that.  It held conflicts and triumphs throughout while at the same time leading the reader down a road of growth and understanding.  Melinda's growth is sudden, which makes this fictional story so very believable.  The ending was unique and interesting.  I was sad for it to end, but at least I know Laurie Halse Anderson has written more books to enjoy.  (Score: 10/10)

This book is an important read.  Not only is it well written, but the main topic-the unspoken teen- is very relevant to today's society.  Too often, teens (and even adults) feel they can't really say what they need to.  Our world places way too many expectations and restrictions on what is appropriate to talk about.  But some things shouldn't be kept silent.  How many girls are shamed into silence every day?  Who makes that okay?  I also loved how Melinda was "punished" for bad grades.  I mean, hello?? That's a red flag of distress and, again, too often, it's covered up with blame and excuses. Don't get me wrong, I understand why this happens.  People don't know how to deal with such problems.  So, where do we begin learning?  With books such as Speak.  The topic is on the table, now discuss. Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Harsh Reality: Darkness is NOT Visible Enough

Last week's fury at the Wall Street Journal Book Review "Darkness Too Visible"  was all over Twitter.  The hashtag #YASAVES is still active.  (For those of you not familiar with a Twitter hashtag, it's a way to tag your post to be included in an ongoing conversation.)  It's apparent that those involved in Young Adult Literature are passionate about their work.

For months I've been following Young Adult Authors Against Bullying on Facebook and waiting anxiously for the release of the book Dear Bully, due out in fall of 2011.  This is an anthology, edited by Young Adult Authors Megan Kelly Hall and Carrie Jones is a compilation of bullying stories by well known authors.  It was born of passion to help teens and address the issue of bullying.  While on that group page the other day, I found an article that tore through my soul.  I knew I had to write about it.

Daniel Mendez, a sophomore in high school, committed suicide in May 2009.  His parents filed suit against four teens who allegedly bullied him.  Now, I'm not going to comment on the law suit but what really moved me was the publication of Daniel's letters to his psychiatrist and friends.  As I read it, I thought, FINALLY a REAL look at what people think when they believe death is the only answer.

It took me two days to read the whole letter.

I've lived what he wrote.  And his words threw me right back there.

How many others can relate?  I'd say: more than most.

How many can't even think about that kind of pain and suffering?  I'd say: TOO MANY.

But in order to save lives and help others, we need to talk about this.  We need to address what is truly driving human beings to end their own lives or to even THINK about it.  And that's where Young Adult Literature comes in.  Starting a difficult conversation with a teen (or anyone for that matter) can be easier with a catalyst.  Great books have always been amazing tools to do just that.

So, here again, I disagree with Meghan Cox Gurdon and her thoughts about YA books.  Darkness can't be visible enough.  It's time we turn the light on.  We need to face reality and rarely does it involve sunshine or rainbows.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Property of Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, July 2007
Hardcover, 304 pages
ISBN-10: 1416916229
ISBN-13: 9781416916222
Grades: 7 and up

When Angela cuts off her hair, changes her name to Grady, and begins to live as a boy, her family and friends have trouble accepting the change.

Description:  Ellen Wittlinger's style of writing is easy to read.  Her descriptions are short, vivid and worked so well in, one can barely tell they are there.  I love they way everything moves the story along.  There no distractions, no boring parts and nothing I wanted to skip.  Every detail mattered. (Score: 10/10)  

Narrative:  Parrotfish is one of those books that place you directly in the  main character's head.  Everything Grady sees, hears and feels is conveyed to the reader in a heartfelt way.  Some parts of the book contain quite a bit of narrative but it envelops the reader. (Score: 10/10) 

Dialogue:  I am in love with Grady's voice.  The character is so grounded that I felt calmer when he spoke, even during times of high emotion.  To be able to write about one feeling and evoke another in the reader takes some amazing talent.  It's no wonder Ellen Wittlinger has won awards.  Her writing style is so engaging that the whole book spoke to me.  (Score:10/10)

Characterization:  My favorite part of reading Parrotfish was getting to know the characters.  Everyone is different yet so balanced in the story.  It was amazing to me how the main character grew but I believe everyone else grew so much more.  In learning the craft, I've struggled with showing the main character's growth, but Ellen was able to make it happen even in the secondary characters.  Pretty amazing, I have to say. (Score: 10/10)

Resolution:  I found the climax and resolution very interesting.  I couldn't predict this ending, yet I doubt it's plausibility a little.  (But then again, I don't come from the same type of family Grady does.)  This book left me with chills and a sense of calm yearning.  I don't need more to this story, but I want it.  The ending was very complete, yet open the way I like it.  There's room for more, yet it's so very satisfying and inspiring. (Score: 10/10)

My twenty one year old niece recommended I read this book.  Before this, I'd never heard of Ellen Wittlinger.  What interested me most was that she lives in in my area of the world.  So, I followed her on Facebook.  And then groupie stalked her at New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (NECBWI) mostly for my niece and dear friend Cybele.

Cybele, Ellen Wittlinger, Lorettajo at NESCBWI regional conference.

Now if I'd KNOWN Ellen was a Printz Honor Award Winner  I probably would have been too scared to approach her, but, alas, I did and found out she is a super, amazingly nice person.  I hadn't yet read her books, so I felt kinda goofy, but now I can make up for it with this review. :)

Anyway, Parrotfish is the type of book I'd recommend to anyone person trying to break free from labels and stereotypes.  There's a lot of discussion involving that topic.  Yes, the main character has changed gender, but the book is really about MORE than that.  It's about individuality, self-acceptance and well, let's face it, helping others accept who YOU really are.  I'm not gay or in confusion about my gender.  But I struggle EVERYDAY with being comfortable in my own skin.  I've tried to be "good" and fit the stereotype that a woman should, and it's made me crazy again and again.  Reading Grady's story inspired me to keep trying.  Be myself and love it.  So,  if you're in constant battle with yourself and others around you, read Parrotfish.  Grady will inspire you to be more of the self you should be.  Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Nurse/Mom/Writer's Perspective on WSJ's Review: Darkness Too Visible

Irony of ironies....I was dreaming big in NYC when I read Laurie Halse Anderson's Blog regarding Meghan Cox Gurdon's article on the content of teen novels: Darkness Too Visible.

Of course, I have to contribute my unique perspective.  I am an ER Nurse, certified to teach Emergency Nursing Pediatric Care.  I am a Mother of a 12 year old boy and 8 year old girl.  I am a Writer of realistic Young Adult Novels. And I'm fascinated with human growth and development and try to apply it to every corner of my life.  "Darkness Too  Visible" jabbed right at my heart.  Specifically this quote:

"Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care."

I say: YES! Please normalize these behaviors-so no one has to feel alone or freaky for having unhealthy coping skills. Teens in crisis perform these self harming behaviors (cutting, binging/purging, drinking, etc) LONG before they seek out books that might make them "imagine such extreme measures".  These brave authors provide a means to talk about it and almost all of them do so with great care. And for that, I applaud them.

And that leads to my other pet peeve belief about teens.  This will be a shocker, I know, but TEENS ARE CAPABLE OF MAKING UP THEIR OWN MINDS.  Developmentally, they have outgrown concrete thinking which means they can now reason based on information provided. See Jean Piaget's theory of development for more.  They can and do think critically.  True, they do not yet have life experience to guide them, but that's where books written by adults comes into play.  Well written Young Adult Novels provide insight in a way few other forms of media can.  They tell a story.  Teens have the ability to apply that story to their own life or not.  

Great books make all my jobs easier.  As a nurse-it's a lifeline for me to offer when I see kids in crisis.  I can say "You're not alone. See?"  As a mom, I can open a conversation about what I just read.  And trust me-they always ask what I'm reading and why.  And in return, ask their thoughts about the topic. As a writer, I have mentors, a guide to follow.  These pioneers are clearing the way for me to also share my story.

Do I want my kids to know that rape, violence and brutality exist?  Of course not.  But in order for them to avoid it, I need to be real, with both myself and them-at the right time.  

Is rating books a good idea, as suggested in the article?  As a mom, I'd probably say yes.  To be honest, I rely on those ratings for TV, movies, music and video games.  Publishers do a great job of assigning age ranges most of the time.  But do parents know how to use them properly? 

As my kids age, I'm learning.  I try to read every book for content before my 12 year old to make sure it's appropriate.  And if it's not, I tell him why.  He can still choose to read it, but we will at some point have a discussion about it.

In the end, I'd like to say that good writing should stir up controversy, should push the envelope.  I'm tired of teen issues shrouded under clouds of fantasy, goth or horror.  Teen problems exist, always have and always will.  We owe it to our kids to talk about it for real.  Otherwise, mistakes will do nothing more than repeat themselves for generations to come.    

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Speak in Code

"In the most Biblical sense,
I am beyond repentance
Fame hooker, prostitute wench vomits her mind
But in the cultural sense
I just speak in future tense
Judas kiss me if offensed,
Or wear ear condom next time..."

"I wanna love you,
But something's pulling me away from you
Jesus is my virtue,
And Judas is the demon I cling to ..."

This blog is, in fact, a cryptic message....but that's just me, having fun with the human mind.  I am, after all, a writer.  My job is to entertain and leave words open to interpretation.  There's  a hazard in this, but I'm going to have to get used to it.  Assumptions will be made about me.  Reviews will be written.  I guess this is as good as anyway to prepare myself.