Today I'm giving a big welcome to Young Adult novelist, Holly Schindler--my first guest blogger! Holly is the author of A Blue so Dark and the recent Playing Hurt.
My introduction to Holly and her books came through the children's writing network, Jacketflap.com. A little later I found Holly at her web site, hollyschindler.com and at her blog, hollyschindler.blogspot.com.
Holly's books are are what I consider top-of-the-line young adult writing: a strong and realistic voice, sophisticated detail, unforgettable characters, and an authentic identification with her young readers. In my opinion, it doesn't get much better than that! Here's what Holly has on her book covers:
A BLUE SO DARK:
Fifteen-year-old Aura Ambrose has been hiding a secret. Her mother, a talented artist and art teacher, is slowly being consumed by schizophrenia, and Aura has been her sole caretaker ever since Aura’s dad left them. Convinced that “creative” equals crazy, Aura shuns her own artistic talent. But as her mother sinks deeper into the darkness of mental illness, the hunger for a creative outlet draws Aura toward the depths of her imagination. Just as desperation threatens to swallow her whole, Aura discovers that art, love, and family are profoundly linked—and together may offer an escape from her fears.
PLAYING HURT :
Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
I love these blurbs--they're wonderful examples of what I share in my workshops when I tell students "what you should be writing in your query letters!" In just a few short lines we have character, plot, and a the promise of a huge emotional pay-off that makes us want to know more, much more.
So how does Holly come up with all this good emotional content? How about "Crying at the Movies"?
"I am one ugly crier. Some women—I’m thinking of actresses on the soaps, especially, who seem to be able to turn on the waterworks anytime they want—can look pretty while the tears roll down their cheeks. Me? My lips turn red, and I puff up like I’m having an allergic reaction. I really hate crying at the movies for just that reason. And I usually hold it back. But I’ve had plenty of times that I felt myself tearing up, or feeling a tear break forth despite my best efforts to hold it in. And I think that makes me a better writer.
Both of my published YAs—A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT—feature characters whose experiences are completely unlike my own. In BLUE, I’ve got a protagonist with a schizophrenic mother who fears that she is mentally unstable, too. In PLAYING HURT, I’ve got a couple of former athletes…and dual protagonists, one of which is a man. Talk about different. I couldn’t play a decent game of basketball to save my life. Yet, the opening scene of PLAYING HURT involves a basketball game.
In order to pull it off—to make situations I have never lived seem real—I have to have extraordinary empathy for my characters. Their pain, their triumphs have to be my own. I have to chuckle when they tell jokes, I have to feel my heart race when they’re in trouble, and, yes, I have to tear up when they encounter tragedy.
If you’re a crier—if you sniff at Hallmark commercials, or cry out in victory when the winner of Top Chef is named—you’ve already got a leg up on the competition. If you can empathize, you can be a great writer."
Thanks, Holly--much appreciated! And in appreciation of our readers, Holly has generously provided a book give-away: a signed copy of Playing Hurt. For our first lucky winner, I'm going to add a copy of my how-to-write book, The Essential Guide for New Writers, From Idea to Finished Manuscript. A second name chosen will receive a copy of The Essential Guide plus a signed bookplate and bookmark from Holly. To be eligible for the drawing, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post today or sometime during the next week before midnight, June 1, 2011 (6/1/11, 12.00 AM).
Tip of the Day: Thanks again to Holly, we have some special writing advice on video. Enjoy, and don't forget to leave a comment!